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Floyd D. Weatherspoon

Permission Pending: Floyd D. Weatherspoon, Racial Profiling of African-American Males: Stopped, Searched, and Stripped of Constitutional Protection, 38 John Marshall Law Review 439 (Winter 2004) (181 Footnotes Omitted)

Every African-American male in this country who drives a vehicle, or has traveled by bus or plane, either knowingly or unknowingly has been the victim of racial profiling by law enforcement officials. Indeed, African-American males are disproportionately targeted, stopped, and searched by law enforcement officials based on race and gender. Those responsible for enforcement of public laws view African-American males as criminals. Unfortunately, the American justice system has condoned, supported, and in some instances encouraged such actions by law enforcement officials to stop, arrest, prosecute, and incarcerate African-American males. On the basis of race and gender, governmental officials have devised a profile of the typical criminal: black and male.

floyd weatherspoonThe term driving while black has been used to describe the practice of law enforcement officials to stop African-American drivers without probable cause. The practice particularly targets African-American males. African-American males are not only singled out while driving, but also while schooling, eating, running for political office, walking, banking, serving as a juror, getting a taxi, shopping, and just being black and a male. The mere fact of being black and male in America is sufficient cause for governmental and private law enforcement officials to abridge the rights of African-American males. This is not to suggest that law enforcement officers can never consider race when performing their job. Just the opposite, where a witness identifies the race and gender of a suspect, it is relevant evidence to consider in an effort to apprehend a criminal. Racial profiling, however, involves a pre-disposition held by law enforcement officers who are members of the majority, to believe that minorities, and particularly African-American males, are engaged in criminal activities; therefore, they are stopped and searched without probable cause or reasonable suspicion.

Racial profiling has been institutionalized into our American justice system, as well as other systems that disproportionately exclude, punish, and ostracize African-American males. For example, racial profiling on the part of governmental officials has encouraged and, to a certain extent, licensed individuals in the private sector to devise similar racial profiles based on stereotypical biases to selectively punish and exclude African-American males from employment opportunities.

This Article focuses on how African-American males have fallen prey to law enforcement agencies, as they use racial profiling as a technique to selectively enforce laws and regulations. There is a substantial amount of literature written on racial profiling, however, few specifically address how African-American males, in particular, are disproportionately impacted by such discriminatory practices.

Part II of this Article describes and substantiates that racial profiling is used against African-American males to stop and search. Regardless of their economic status or education, African-American males are disproportionately stopped by law enforcement officials. Part III describes how stereotypical biases are the primary reasons law enforcement officials engage in racial profiling against African-American males. Lastly, the assumption being that all African-American males are engaged in unlawful activities, Part IV identifies how racial profiling of African-American males is used to sanction traffic and airport stops, in violation of their constitutional rights. Unfortunately, it appears that the Supreme Court has sanctioned such treatment.