Tuesday, August 20, 2019

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Vernellia Randall
Founder and Editor
Professor Emerita of Law
The University of Dayton School of Law

Article Index

II. Racial Profiling of African-American Males

African-American males are the primary victims of racial profiling in this country. Moreover, African-American males believe they are the primary victims of racial profiling in this country. For example, surveys conducted by the Washington Post and the Black America's Political Action Committee (BAMPAC) determined that almost fifty percent of African-American males surveyed believed they had been victims of racial profiling. The practice of racial profiling is not limited to just urban areas. Indeed, it happens wherever African-American males live, work, or traverse; whether in cities, rural communities, East or West, North or South, they face closer scrutiny by law enforcement than white males. Racial profiling of African-American males is not a new phenomenon but a re-packaging of a twentieth-century form of racial discrimination toward black males. Justice Marshall said it best when he faced racial profiling in the 1960s:

[a] white man came up beside me in plain clothes with a great big pistol on his hip. And he said, Nigger boy, what are you doing here? And I said, Well I'm waiting for the train to Shreveport. And he said, There's only one more train comes through here, and that's the 4 o'clock, and you'd better be on it because the sun is never going down on a live nigger in this town.

At a different time and in a different place, African-American males were, and remain, singled out for harassment. Interestingly, racial profiling is not isolated to just black male youths in urban areas with a gangster or rapper appearance or demeanor. Racial profiling is applied in a non-discriminatory manner among African-American males, regardless of their economic status. African-American males who are lawyers, educators, sport figures, legislators, actors, news reporters, and business executives are stopped, questioned, and humiliated by law enforcement officers simply because they are black and male. One-thousand dollar Armani suits do not shield them from being perceived as drug-dealing thugs.

Negative stereotypical biases of African-American males overshadow any appearances that they are law-abiding citizens. Indeed, in the eyes of many law enforcement officers, an African-American male driving a Mercedes-Benz projects the presumption of illegal activity, not the presumption of a hard working citizen.

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