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A History of Racial Discrimination and the Fight for Change

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Racial profiling is the act of targeting an individual for the suspicion of crime based on the individual’s race, ethnicity, religion, or nationality. Imagine being wrongfully committed of a crime that you did not commit. Imagine being followed around because the color of your skin is too dark. Imagine being watched carefully in a retail store, when you’re just coming in to shop like everyone else. This indeed is an act of racism, but more specifically racial profiling.

Racial profiling dates back to the nineteenth century, when many European and American scientists tried to prove that people of certain body forms have positive and negative personality traits that matched their physical features. There were some scientists that tried to theorize that people of color had physical features that indicated they were either not intelligent, or more likely to commit a crime than people not of color. Although they didn’t have proof to back up these theories, law enforcement agencies decided to adopt them and used it to make targeting people of specific ethnic groups right.

For example, back then Jewish people were huge victims of racial profiling simply because of the size of their nose. It was believed that they were more likely to commit a crime due to their large noses. Although this awful stereotype would seem ridiculous today, not a lot of people questioned them back then and this is how racial profiling began.

Racial profiling became a common practice amongst other minorities as well in the United States. Police Officers began targeting African Americans and Chinese Americans because it was believed for a long period of time that these two racial groups were “criminal by nature”. This discrimination continued throughout the twentieth and twenty first centuries, even with the Civil Rights Movement that took place in the 1950’s and 1960’s.

During this time, it was a struggle for justice amongst the African Americans because Caucasians didn’t want them having the same rights as them. Although it was tough, eventually African Americans gained the justice they truly deserved in 1964. July 2nd of 1964, The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed and it basically guarantees the equal treatment of minorities. This Civil Rights Act ended the segregation against race, color, religion, and sex.

With that being said, The Civil Rights Act falls under a federal law and technically racial profiling is considered illegal in the United States. According to Points of View’s article on racial profiling, it violates the fourth amendment of the Constitution which guarantees protection against unlawful search and seizure.

August 5th of 2014, there was an African American male that was shot and killed by officer Sean Williams of Beavercreek, Ohio. The dispatcher received a call that there was a black male waving a rifle gun and pointing it at people in an aisle at Walmart. In the surveillance video, you could clearly see the male not being a threat to anyone and the caller was obviously unsure about the situation. Although the Caucasian male relayed the poorly, without a doubt the dispatcher instantly suspected danger and sent help.

Without a chance to surrender or explain, the police officer instantly fired shots killing the 22 year old male. As they examined his lifeless body, they found out the African American wasn’t in the possession of a real rifle gun, but an unpackaged BB rifle gun that he found on the store shelf. John Crawford III of Dayton, Ohio was the suspect that was laid to rest behind this horrific event.

John’s family tried to file a wrongful death civil rights lawsuit against the police officer because they felt he was wrongfully killed. Although this is true, the police officers were technically justified in their actions because of the 911 call they received. When Ronald Richie told the dispatcher “He’s like loading it right now… Pointing it at people”, it prompted the police to take action. When they made it to where he was standing, John turned towards the policeman and Williams stated “That’s why I pulled the trigger.”

What the caller failed to realize during this situation was that Crawford was on the phone during the whole process, which should’ve been made clear to the dispatcher. The police didn’t receive this information, so when they prompted him to put the gun down it looked like he wasn’t responding to their commands when really, he was just on the phone unaware of what was taking place. John’s family labeled this event as being an example of police brutality.

This tragic event opened the eyes of America, especially in the African American community and many people wanted justice for John and his family. “We believe that had Mr. Crawford been white, he would’ve gotten more time to respond to the police officers,’ Mr. Erin said. Yes the police officers commanded him to put the gun down, but he wasn’t given enough time. ‘These officers came in, saw Mr. Crawford and shot him on sight. They didn’t give him the opportunity to live'(Erin Burnett OutFront CNN). This quote concludes how Mr. Erin felt about the shooting incident itself. Many people felt like this, but they weren’t given the chance to speak up and speak out on their thoughts because the shooting was of probable cause.

According to Huff Posts’ article on a doctor being racially profiled, there was an African American Harvard-educated doctor whom was racially profiled by the employees on a Delta flight. They were questioning her medical credentials as she tried to assist another passenger on board that was in need of help. “Dr. Fatima Cody Stanford, who serves as an obesity medicine physician-scientist, educator and policymaker at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, told Boston 25 news that she was flying from Indianapolis to Boston on Oct. 23 when a woman began to convulse and hyperventilate. Stanford said she worked to calm the woman as she assessed her condition. A flight attendant approached and asked Stanford if she was a doctor. Stanford, in turn, produced her medical license.” (Huffpost Golgoski)

This shows how African Americans today are still being questioned about their intelligence. In the article, it mentions that Dr. Stanford showed proof of her doctoral license and they were still skeptical about her providing help to the passenger in need. If her ethnicity was anything other than African American, her credentials probably would have never been questioned to begin with.

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