About the Campaign Against Racial Profiling

The Racial Justice Program's Campaign Against Racial Profiling fights law enforcement and private security practices that disproportionately target people of color and Muslims for investigation and enforcement.  We represent individuals who have been victims of racial profiling by airlines, police, and government agencies, and our present work also encompasses major initiatives in public education, including the creation of a film, bustcard, “Know Your Rights”brochure, and a fact sheet on Highlights in the Fight Against Racial Profiling. Our advocacy also includes lobbying for the passage of data collection and anti-profiling legislation and litigation of egregious airline and highway profiling cases.

What Is Racial Profiling?

Racial Profiling is any police or private security practice in which a person is treated as a suspect because of his or her race, ethnicity, nationality or religion. This occurs when police investigate, stop, frisk, search or use force against a person based on such characteristics instead of evidence of a person's criminal behavior. It often involves the stopping and searching of people of color for traffic violations, known as "DWB" or "driving while black or brown." Although normally associated with African Americans and Latinos, racial profiling and "DWB" have also become shorthand phrases for police stops of Asians, Native Americans, and, increasingly after 9/11, Arabs, Muslims and South Asians.

Racial profiling can also involve pedestrian stops, "gang" databases, bicycle stops, use of police attack dogs, suspicion at stores and malls, immigration worksite raids, and in the 2000 presidential election in Florida, harassment on the way to polls, "voting while black or brown". Customs and other airport officials also engage in racial profiling of passengers. Read more about different kinds of racial profiling.

Is Racial Profiling Real?

Most Americans think so. A July 2001 Gallup poll reported that 55 percent of whites and 83 percent of blacks believe racial profiling is widespread. And the reports of thousands of racial and ethnic group members across the country add credibility to the perception that racial profiling is real. These are stories from all walks of life, not just hardworking everyday people, but celebrities, professional athletes, and members of the military. Also, reports of racial profiling come from respected members of communities of color such as police commanders, prosecutors, judges, state legislators, lawyers, dentists and even representatives in Congress, who have been victims.

Racial profiling is a new term for an old practice known by other names – institutional racism and discrimination – and owes its existence to prejudice that has existed in this country since slavery.

Tens of thousands of innocent drivers, pedestrians, and shoppers across the country are victims of racial profiling. And these discriminatory police stops and searches have reached epidemic proportions in recent years, fueled by the "War on Drugs" and the "War on Terror" that have given police a pretext to target people they think fit a "drug courier," "gang member," or "terrorist" profile. In fact, racial profiling is the first step in a long road that leads to the heavily disproportionate incarceration of people of color, especially young men, for drug-related crimes, and of Arabs, Muslims and South Asians for suspicion of terrorism. Racial profiling continues to occur even though people of color are no more likely than whites to use or sell drugs, and Arabs Muslims and South Asians are no more likely than whites to be terrorists.

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