Racial Profiling Shows Unequal Justice For Blacks, Book Says
COLUMBUS, Ohio - Racial profiling by police officers would make more sense if whites were targeted instead of African Americans, according to the author of the new book Race and Justice (Nova Science Publishers, 2000).
In the book, author Rudolph Alexander, Jr., associate professor of social work at Ohio State University, examined 1996 U.S. crime statistics for the eight most serious crimes, called index crimes. In these categories, whites were more likely to be arrested for six of the eight crimes (rape, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft and arson). African Americans were more likely to be arrested for two of these serious crimes: murder and robbery.
"From these statistics, one can conclude that racial profiling is more practical for whites because they are arrested more often in three-fourths of index crimes," Alexander said. "The arguments for targeting African Americans are weak and unsupported."
Many traffic stops based on racial profiling involve suspicions of illegal drugs in the vehicle. But even then, profiling of Blacks is not warranted, Alexander said. Of the 1.1 million arrests made for drug abuse in 1996, 60 percent involved whites.
Alexander emphaszed that he is not seriously proposing racial profiling of whites. Instead, he is attacking the theory that profiling is appropriate for Blacks or any racial or ethnic group.
"Without a doubt, African Americans are involved in crimes higher than their population rate," Alexander said. "But racial profiling is based on the faulty assumption that all Blacks should be considered criminal suspects."
In Race and Justice, Alexander said that racial profiling is just one example of how African Americans still are the victims of unequal justice in the United States from a variety of institutions, from schools to courts to law enforcement.
The problem is compounded because of disagreements about the state of race relations in the United States.
"Typically, African Americans and whites differ regarding the extent to which they think race impinges upon American institutions," he said.
"Many whites thing racism is a thing of the past and accuse African Americans of 'playing the race card' whenever they make accusations of racism. While improvement in racial interactions has certainly occurred, the evidence is clear that African Americans still receive less justice in this country."
The juvenile justice system is another example, Alexander said. African American juveniles are more likely to be arrested for murder and robbery, but for all other offenses, including drug violations and weapons, white juveniles constitute the majority of those arrested. Even so, Black youth are more likely to face legal consequences.
Alexander mentions a 1995 study in Michigan that found that White youth stopped by police on suspicion of criminal acts were more likely than Black youths to be released at the scene, while Black youths were more likely to be detained. "In the juvenile justice system, White adolescents are going to receive the greatest proportion of breaks, and African Americans are going to receive less," he said.
The disparity in how Black and white youth are treated is especially apparent when it comes to drug offenses, he said. In one study reviewed by Alexander, a survey showed that Georgia at one time had 100 youth in confinement for drug offences, and all were African Americans. While drug use is often seen as a mental health issue for white suburban youth, it is treated as a criminal matter for Blacks, particularly in the inner cities, he said.
"Black youth are most often the victims of the nation's war on drugs," Alexander said. "I would advocate that African American juveniles with only drug offences be treated by their communities from a mental health perspective rather than from a legal perspective."
Alexander said the research he cites in his book shows that the civil rights movements of the 1960s and subsequent reforms in a variety of institutions have not yet evened the playing field for African Americans.
"Although there's been improvement in many areas, that shouldn't fool anyone into thinking that Blacks have achieved equal justice in the United States. "There's still a long way to go," Alexander said.# Contact: Rudolph Alexander, Jr., (614) 292-1878Alexander.email@example.com Written by Jeff Grabmeier, (614) 292-8457; Grabmeier.firstname.lastname@example.org