Famous African-American men such as Congressman Harold Ford, Jr. of Tennessee, Wesley Snipes, Blair Underwood, Christopher Darden, and NAACP President Kweisi Mfume have also been stopped by police, allegedly for no other reason than the color of their skin. Robert L. Wilkins, a Harvard-educated Washington attorney, was traveling along U.
S. Interstate 68 in 1992, returning from his grandfathers funeral, when a Maryland state trooper pulled the families rented Cadillac over for speeding. When the trooper asked to search the car and its contents, Wilkins refused. But the trooper set loose a drug-sniffing dog to comb the cars exterior, including the windshield, the hubcaps, and the taillights while Wilkins and his family stood in the rain.
No drugs were found. The Wilkins family was completely humiliated. They were humiliated. They were later awarded a $95,000 settlement from the Maryland State Police, as well as an agreement by the agency to keep records to help prevent discrimination (Jones 38-40).
Statistics on racial profiling are controversial, but in a recent study, Temple University Professor John Lamlberth determined that about 75 percent of the motorists and traffic violators along one stretch of U. S. Interstate 95 were white, but 80 percent of searches were of minorities. The attitude of certain high-ranking law enforcement officials also helps to compound the problem. For instance, New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman fired the state police superintendent; Carl Williams for saying that while he did not condone racial profiling, minorities were responsible for most of the countrys illegal drug trade (Cannon 72). Statistics confirm that African Americans-particularly young black men-commit a dramatically disproportionate share of street crime in the United State.
This is a sociological fact, not a figment of a racist media (or police) imagination. In recent years, victims report blacks as perpetrators of around 25 percent of violent crimes, although blacks constitute only about only about 12 percent of the nations population. Statistics such as these make it seem as if racial profiling is not the result of bigotry, and that the factual claim upon which the practice rests is sound. But, racial profiling is still wrong because racial distinctions are and should be different from other lines of social stratification. That is why, since the civil rights revolution of the 1960s, courts have typically ruled-based on the 14th Amendments equal protection clause-that mere reasonableness is an insufficient justification for officials to discriminate on racial grounds.
In such cases, courts have generally insisted on applying strict scrutiny-the most intense level of judicial review-to government actions. Under this tough standard, the use of race in governmental decisions making may be upheld only if it serves a compelling government objective and only if it is narrowly tailored to advance that objective (Kennedy 70-74). Racial profiling should be ended even if the generalizations on which the technique is based are supported by empirical or factual evidence. There are actually many contexts in which the law properly forbids us from playing racial odds even when doing so would advance legitimate goals.
For example, public opinion surveys have established that blacks distrust laws enforcement more than whites. Thus, it would be rational-and not necessarily racist-for a prosecutor to use ethnic origin as a factor in excluding black potential jurors. And, because demographics show that in the United States, whites tend to live longer than blacks, it would be perfectly rational for insurers to charge blacks higher life-insurance premiums. However, the law forbids both practices, and it should forbid racial profiling (Kennedy 70-74).