NAACP Chairman Julian Bond Calls "Evil Practice" of Racial Profiling a Problem in All 50 States
ST. PAUL, MINNESOTA — According to a story in today’s Minneapolis Star Tribune, the NAACP’s national chairman, Julian Bond called racial profiling is a nationwide epidemic, “an ancient habit that has awful effects” Saturday night at a membership and voter registration drive held by the St. Paul chapter of the NAACP.
“I don’t know any details about racial profiling in Minnesota, but I do know it’s not just a problem in New Jersey and New York, but it’s a problem in each of the 50 states,” he said at the Higher Ground Academy in St. Paul. The newspaper reported that Bond’s comments were in connection with studies begun by the St. Paul and Minneapolis police departments to document the race of every person stopped by officers. (More information is available at: http://archive.aclu.org/news/2000/w041400d.html .) Hundreds of police departments have undertaken similar studies to respond to high-profile cases such as the shooting of the West African immigrant Amadou Diallo in New York and to complaints by members of minority communities that they are unfairly stopped by the police because of the color of their skin.
Bond said NAACP chapters are working around the country to ensure that the data being collected and interpreted to reflect reality. The St. Paul NAACP says it wants to work with St. Paul police on the study.
We hope to come up with mechanisms to monitor the racial profiling systems to make sure the information they are finding is accurate,” said Nathaniel Khaliq, president of St. Paul’s NAACP.
Bond said the experience of racial profiling — something almost all black people share — often leads to feelings of alienation and frustration, escalating racial tensions.
“If I drive from here to Washington, D.C., I will probably be stopped, not because I am speeding or committing some other crime, but for no other reason than the color of my skin,” he said. “I am not saying it will happen, but that I believe it will happen because it has happened to me. If you ask almost any black person, they will tell you it has happened to them. “You feel marginalized — like you have been disempowered … because of who you are, and that’s something you can’t change.”
Bond and the NAACP also recently called on California’s Governor Gray Davis to sign a bill requiring statewide data collection. In a strongly worded letter to Governor Davis dated April 20, 2000, Bond promised that, “The NAACP will not rest until this evil practice is eliminated.
“Such data gathering has widespread support. Both major candidates for President, the United States House of Representatives Judiciary Committee – by a unanimous vote, Missouri Governor Mel Carnahan and countless others recognize the pressing need to assemble facts which can help prove or disprove the application of stereotypical and bigoted notions by law enforcement personnel.
“New Jersey Governor Christine Whitman has admitted that her police state force routinely stopped minority motorists only because of their race. Other officials elsewhere have agreed, however reluctantly, that racist practices remain prevalent in law enforcement in their communities, despite many years’ effort to eliminate them.
“There are few minority citizens of your state – of any state – who have not had the frightening experience of being stopped by a law enforcement official for no apparent reason when no crime or infraction had occurred. It has happened to me. Sad experience demonstrates that voluntary compliance is not sufficient when fundamental principles of human rights are at stake.
“The NAACP calls upon you to act decisively to place California in the forefront of efforts to eliminate this evil. The nation once looked to the Golden State for leadership in human rights; the NAACP and the nation are watching and waiting now.”
A few days later, Governor Davis triggered a statewide outcry when he announced that he would refuse to sign any bill requiring data collection in California. (See http://archive.aclu.org/news/2000/w042800a.html.) Editorials throughout the state have since backed calls from the NAACP, ACLU and other civil rights groups for Davis to reverse his opposition to mandatory data. (See http://archive.aclu.org/news/2000/w052100a.html and http://archive.aclu.org/news/2000/w060700b.html.)
Meanwhile, a total of seven other states have passed data collection bills and, in Minnesota, legislators are in the processing of drafting a similar measure for their state. (See http://archive.aclu.org/news/2000/w061500b.html .)
Every month, you'll receive regular roundups of the most important civil rights and civil liberties developments. Remember: a well-informed citizenry is the best defense against tyranny.
The Latest in Smart Justice
The American Civil Liberties Union is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States of America.
Learn More About Smart Justice
The ACLU Campaign for Smart Justice is an unprecedented, multiyear effort to reduce the U.S. jail and prison population by 50% and to challenge racism in the criminal legal system.