Comment: written by Harriet King.
Racial profiling is an everyday occurrence in the US, often leading to the death of innocent people. Murders are often ignored and the victims are not served justice; a crime against humanity and proof of a corrupt establishment.
“We’ve been floating this country on credit for centuries, and we’re done watching and waiting while this invention called whiteness uses and abuses us, burying black people out of sight and out of mind, while extracting our culture, our dollars, our entertainment like oil.”
“Ghettoizing and demeaning our creations and gentrifying our genius and then trying us on like costumes before discarding our bodies like rinds of strange fruit.”
These were the powerful words of Jesse Williams, American actor, at the 2016 BET awards. The activist discussed the racial profiling of black Americans in light of what would have been Tamir Rice’s – a 12 year old who was shot in a drive by while playing in the park – fourteenth birthday.
Williams argued that nothing has been done since the death of Tamir, and he refuses to accept how far America has come since when events such as this are constantly repeated.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union, (ACLU) racial profiling is“a longstanding and deeply troubling national problem despite claims that the United States has entered a “post-racial era.”
“It occurs every day, in cities and towns across the country, when law enforcement and private security target people of colour for humiliating and often frightening detentions, interrogations, and searches without evidence of criminal activity and based on perceived race, ethnicity, national origin or religion.”
ACLU clearly states racial profiling is patently illegal, and violates the US constitution’s core promises of equal protection under the law to all and freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures.
If the country’s civil liberties union understand the severity of racial profiling, then is it the legal system, federal system and courts that are failing to take the crime seriously?
There is empirical evidence confirming that racial profiling is still an avid problem in the US. For example, the country’s department of Labor’s Bureau of Justice Statistics reported that police actions taken during a traffic stop were not constant across ethnic categories.
The data shows that black drivers were twice as likely as white drivers to be arrested during a traffic stop, while Hispanic drivers were 65 percent more likely than white or black drivers to receive a ticket.
The fear of being criminalised because of your skin colour is an out dated, terrifying and ugly notion – something which is a crime within itself. However, unfortunately, racial profiling is yet to be viewed as a crime in the eyes of the courtroom.
According to the book Suspicion Nation, George Zimmerman’s justification to shooting dead 17-year-old African American Trayvon Martin in Florida, 2012, was “he looked like a real suspicious guy” – A murder, the loss of a brother, a son, and an innocent teenager – over not only “suspicion” but racial profiling.
If death isn’t the ultimate punishment, then loss of justice and the perpetuation of events such as this are worse. Following the shooting, Zimmerman was not immediately arrested, and it wasn’t until Martin’s body was found dead among the overgrown grass that his family was informed of his death.
After much protesting, campaigning and demand from the media, Zimmerman was finally arrested and the case was taken to court. Although justice was yet to be served, the trail was the start of what could have been a revolution for innocent deaths according to racial discrimination.
However, the jury concluded – made up of predominately white Americans – Zimmerman was not guilty of neither manslaughter nor murder.
The reasoning? US law states you can pull the trigger if “he or she believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to him or herself.”
The fact Zimmerman claimed Martin went to grab his gun appeared to provide sufficient evidence his life was at risk, therefore he acted in self-defence when killing Martin.
In the eyes of the courtroom, the defence, the prosecution, and the judge, it would have been easy to prove Martin did not impose this threat on Zimmerman, therefore the shooting is not justified.
However, all parties within the case overlooked various pieces of vital evidence that proved Zimmerman was guilty, later revealed by legal analyst, Lisa Bloom, who intensively investigated the trial and published the forgotten evidence in her book Suspicion Nation.
Unfortunately, the Zimmerman Martin case is just one of hundreds that happen regularly across the United States. It is a crime against humanity that is repeated everyday, and every day more and more African Americans live in fear of unnecessary violence.
Attaching a stigma to someone because of their skin colour, their culture or ethnicity is something the younger generation needs to demolish; to revolutionise equal rights across race and serve justice to the murders of the past overlooked by the establishment.
Death by racial profiling is the reality for some – not a court case, not a news article, not a “moment in history,” but a reality. The loss of a loved one. The painful grieving process – having to tell other family members, arrange a funeral, and live the rest of your life without that innocent person, who died in the name of racial profiling.
Two things need to be changed in the movement against racial profiling: the uneducated mind set of America’s racists, and the lack of support from the federal and judicatory system.
If a case has been brought forward to the courts, similar to that of the Zimmerman trial, the presence of racial profiling should be accounted for both a crime and a defence. Racial profiling is a crime, and should be treated as one, as much as theft, armed robbery, rape and murder are. To oversee this as a crime, is a crime within itself.