October 1998
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Angry Dan's Column


Racial Profiling


by Daniel Strohl


While I (and apparently many other Americans) didn't pay too much attention to 'ole Clinton's Advisory Board on Race either before or after they issued their report, an article about it in the Sept. 18 edition of The Cincinnati Enquirer alerted me to one issue in particular which the board addressed - that of racial profiling.

A little background: "racial profiling is the use of race as a factor in determining the profiles of likely criminal suspects" (Cincinnati Enquirer, Sept. 18, 1998 A9). Think of what Fox Mulder does and you get the picture. In its report, the Advisory Board on Race urged the Justice Department and local police departments across the nation to restrict their use of racial profiling. Critics of both the report and of racial profiling say the report should have taken stronger measures and urged the outlaw of racial profiling.

This indicates that racial profiling is not necessary and that race is not a factor in forming a person's (in this case, a criminal's) personality and behavioral traits. I'm no psychologist, but I have a problem with that statement.

You see, once a person is born, especially in a climate as racially tense as today's America, they are inundated with cultures and stereotypes and about a million images which that person uses later on in life to define him/herself racially. This leads to distinct differences between the thoughts and actions of one who, say, embraces the dominant white male stereotype and one who embraces African-American culture. Or between one who casts him/herself as Hispanic-American and one who finds strength in his/her Native American heritage.

And there are differences. Just look three pages after the Advisory Board story to find a story that states 73 percent of African-Americans, 52 percent of Hispanic and 44 percent of caucasian high schoolers have had sexual intercourse.

This is not to say racial profiling is 100 percent foolproof. People surely do not think and act just like every member of their race. To say so would be foolish. If that were the case, then there would be nothing wrong with the use of stereotypes. But to say people never embody any stereotypes, racially or otherwise, is just too idealistic.

Further on in the Advisory Board story, Clinton himself is quoted as saying he wants to help "lift the heavy burden of race from our children's future." Well, isn't that nice? Idealistically, I'd like to live in a color-blind world where I don't have to worry about what my racial heritage is, but that means in many cases I would have to forgo my culture and thus forgo a big part of my identity, which I don't think the American people are ready to do just yet.

Racial profiling stays.

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