“Racial profiling seeps so deeply in our society that a wallet in the hand of a white man looks like a wallet and the wallet in the hand of a black man looks like a gun.”
Senator Bill Bradley, candidate for U.S. President, July 25, 2000
“I think it’s fair to say, number one, any of us would be pretty angry; number two, that the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home. And number three, what I think we know separate and apart from this incident is that there is a long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcing disproportionately. That’s just a fact. As you know, Lynn, when I was in the state legislature in Illinois, we worked on a racial profiling bill because there was indisputable evidence that blacks and Hispanics were being stopped disproportionately. And that is a sign, an example of how, you know, race remains a factor in the society. That doesn’t lessen the incredible progress that has been made. I am standing here as testimony to the progress that’s been made. And yet the fact of the matter is, is that, you know, this still haunts us. And even when there are honest misunderstandings, the fact that blacks and Hispanics are picked up more frequently, and oftentime for no cause, casts suspicion even when there is good cause.”
President Barak Obama, July 22, 2009
In a July 2004 Gallup Poll, 67% of blacks and 50% of whites surveyed think the practice known as ‘racial profiling’ is widespread when motorists are stopped on roads and highways.
Exercising the authority we have been delegated over another human being because of their race is simply wrong. It is racism and as a police officer it stings that our president would call it a fact “that casts suspicion even when there is good cause” and that a majority of U.S. citizens believe that it is a widespread problem. Despite the inescapable history of racism in this country and the malpractice of some law enforcement officers, racial profiling is not a disease that has infected American policing. The bill that Illinois State Senator Obama championed went into effect January 1, 2004 “to determine if racial profiling exists in our state” has not revealed the indisputable evidence that is being presented as fact. According to the most recent results, the driving population for the entire state of Illinois is 28.48% minorities and 32.12% of all traffic stops made by police officers in Illinois involve minority drivers. Draw your own conclusion on what that 3.64% spread means, but also know the study shows half of all police departments, including the Illinois State Police, are not stopping minorities in greater proportion than appear in their jurisdiction’s motoring public. Every year since 2005 these results have been released and each year the stories of racially biased policing in Illinois have been absent. If the facts were there to support those stories you can believe that someone in the media would be reporting them.
You may know from experience that for every allegation of bias there are many more examples of selflessness that are blind to race. You may even feel better knowing that the data does not support the public perception, but the perception is painful and the proper reaction is not to become defensive but to recognize that each of us has a responsibility to do something about it. The sixth principle to “Respect all Human Life” is all about adjusting your perspective to give no lesser status to anyone based on race, gender, age or anything else. In Illinois we have the Elder Abuse and Neglect Act for the aged, a criminal charge of Intentional Homicide of an Unborn Child to protect life in the womb, a hate crime statute that specifically protects victim’s from crimes motivited by their race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability, or gender. All of these laws draw attention to specific groups worthy of equal respect. You must become aware of your role in protecting those who depend on your leadership and influence. We are all more alike than different but your personal biases, which we all carry, must be kept intentionally in check.
“Love your neighbor as yourself” is a command that appears in the Bible no less than nine times. When Jesus was asked, “who is my neighbor?” he responded with the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-36). As that goes, a Jewish man is walking down the road when he is beaten, robbed and left half dead. A priest walks by but offers no help. A Levite, a sort you would expect to respond helpfully, comes along and also ignores the man. Finally a Samaritan comes along and does what no one else did, bandaging his wounds and taking him to an inn where he pays all the expenses of his recovery. A point not to be missed is that Samaritans and Jews despised each other. The Jew along the road and the man who had mercy on him were from different worlds and even portraying a Samaritan in a positive light would have shocked the original audience. Despite all of this the Samaritan simply saw a man who needed help and stepped in to offer it. Jesus tells all of us to, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:37)