The Injustice in the Act of Racial Profiling by Police

Since this country was founded, discrimination based on race is, and always has been, an as issue that plagues our nation’s minorities. While this long standing problem has certainly become less prevalent throughout history, it continues to be an issue as shown through racially fueled bias, institutionalized racism, and racial discrimination in the justice system. One piece of this is racial profiling by police, being the unfair treatment of minorities by law enforcement based on their race, and whether or not this continues to be a serious issue in the United States.

Some might say that racial profiling is not and has never been a serious issue, as there is “no credible evidence” showing racial profiling by police to be a problem (Mac Donald).

This is the stance taken by Heather Mac Donald, a Fellow of the Manhattan Institute who stated her opinion on this issue for CQ Researcher in November of 2013. While Mac Donald offers the negative viewpoint, others would argue that racial profiling by police is an undoubtedly serious and widespread issue, and one that has remained unremedied for far too long.

This is the side taken by Dennis Parker, Director of the Racial Justice Program for the American Civil Liberties Union, as he argues that “law enforcement agents continue to rely on race… as a basis for subjecting people to criminal investigations” (Parker). While both sides make their opinions clear, it becomes obvious when looking at the facts on the issue at hand that Dennis Parker makes the stronger argument.

The primary weakness in Mac Donald’s argument lies in the irrelevance of her data, and her obvious bias in the way she views and presents evidence. Mac Donald states obvious facts, saying that “Officers are deployed to where city residents are most victimized by violence,” and that the places privy to the most violent crimes are minority neighborhoods. Though this may true, she fails to understand that the reason the majority of crime occurs in these neighborhoods be is because minorities are being unfairly targeted by the police and by society.

She looks only at the effect of racial profiling on neighborhoods, rather than looking at what is actually causing this disproportionality of crime in the first place. Her argument rests on the idea that ethnic minorities commit more crimes than whites, as she cites the “predominantly black” town of Brownsville, Brooklyn as an area with more highly concentrated gang violence with a “per capita shooting rate… 81 times higher” than that of Bay Ridge, a town with a “largely white and Asian population” (Mac Donald). She fails to take into account that it is not the ethnicity of the population in these areas that is causing more violent crimes, but rather the areas themselves. Minorities, more specifically the African Americans that Mac Donald targets in her argument, have been forced into ghetto neighborhoods where crime is more prevalent. This does not reflect on the population, but rather the areas in which they are forced to reside.

If the more concentrated policing and higher stop and search rate of minority civilian’s by law enforcement were truly justified, then this area should have lowered crime rates. But the crime rates in these areas remain unchanged in comparison to national statistics because much of the policing done in these areas is ineffective and unjust. Mac Donald’s evidence is not only irrelevant, but the way in which it is presented displays her bias and sincere lack of understanding.

The other weakness in Mac Donald’s argument can be seen in her use of irrelevant anecdotal evidence that does not pertain to the issue at hand. She attempts to use pathos to gain the audience’s favor, telling a story about “an elderly cancer amputee in the South Bronx,” who is too frightened to go down to the lobby of her apartment and get her mail “because of the youths hanging out there, smoking marijuana” (Mac Donald). She says that this woman only feels safe after the police have patrolled the area, demonstrating how law enforcement in these neighborhoods is necessary for civilian security. But this story hardly pertains to the actual issue.

Race is not mentioned anywhere in this argument, and Mac Donald seems to be arguing more about whether law enforcement is necessary in general, rather than focusing on the question of racial profiling by police. With this story, Mac Donald tries to gain the favor of the reader using pathos to conceal her lack of relevant evidence, showing the true weakness of her argument.

In contrast, Parker presents evidence that is clearly relevant to his argument and, although his stance is clear, the proof is concrete and unmanipulated. He focuses on the fact that “numerous studies, data collection and individual anecdotes confirm that law enforcement agents continue to rely on race… as a basis for subjecting people to criminal investigation,” proving his point that racial profiling remains an issue despite numerous attempts made to remedy this issue (Parker). He cites a study done in New York City, in which a federal judge concluded that “of the approximately 1.6 million pedestrians stopped and questioned by the NYPD” between the years 2010-2012, “more than half were African-American and nearly one in three were hispanic” (Jost).

These numbers are completely disproportionate to the population of New York City, and do not accurately reflect actual crime rates as “the percentage of ‘completely innocent’ persons who were stopped” was as high as “90 percent” in 2010 (Jost). Parker refers back to this fact, summarizing by saying that these minority groups “were far more likely than whites to be stopped by police when there was no reasonable suspicion of criminal activity and were less likely than whites to be found in possession of illegal items.” This is a truly reputable source, and clearly demonstrates the point that Parker is making towards how much of an impact racial profiling has on law enforcement.

The other strength in Parker’s argument can be seen in his call to action, where he explains why his opinion is not only correct, but also relevant to society. After making his case, he goes on to state that “despite overwhelming evidence that racial profiling persists, the End Racial Profiling Act continues to languish in Congress,” showing how appropriate action still has not been taken. This is an issue that must be taken seriously, as a racist system only works to undermine our government as a whole.

Parker recognizes that we as a nation have been living in denial for too long, and understands that this is an issue which must be addressed rather than pushed under the rug. If we fail to make a change, we will continue “depriving [minorities] of their individual rights and undermining support for our criminal justice system” (Parker). He clearly explains that this is not only an issue to be recognized, but to be dealt with, further strengthening the validity of his argument.

It is obvious when looking at these two arguments that Parker not only makes stronger points, but is a more reputable source of information in general. Though it is difficult to form a full argument with such limited space as a Pro/Con provides, it is possible to form a concise argument using relevant evidence and clearly thought out points. Mac Donald fails to do this, as her argument relies heavily on irrelevant statistics, anecdotes, and poorly organized opinion. As stated by Parker, “the idea of basing law enforcement on actions rather than on race, ethnicity or religion is long overdue.” This is a standard that all law enforcement officials should be held to, and an obvious step that must be made toward a true system of justice.

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The Injustice in the Act of Racial Profiling by Police. (2023, Feb 15). Retrieved from

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