Civil Rights and Protests

The Post-Civil Rights Era

What is racial profiling?

Racial profiling refers to a discriminatory practice by law enforcement officials to use race, ethnicity, religion, or national origin to take action against individuals or groups. Those most frequently targeted have been African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, and sometimes gang members. After the bombing of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, Arabs, Muslims, and South Asians became popular victims as well. Those targeted may be stopped while driving in the “wrong” neighborhood, driving expensive cars, driving while no violation occurs, in airports, malls, and elsewhere. Racial profiling has included celebrities, college students, professional athletes, state legislators, military personnel, and others. On July 1, 2009, Harvard University Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. was arrested for disorderly conduct in his Cambridge, Massachusetts, home when a witness reported to police that he was trying to break into a home, which was, in fact, Gates’ residence. The case spurred President Barack Obama to raise the issue of racial prejudice and profiling. Recent accusations against law officials emerged in the state of Arizona, where Hispanics were the primary victims. Some black Americans react to racial profiling by wearing t-shirts or other paraphernalia with the lettering “driving while black” and similar messages.


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