Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Racial Profiling: Balancing Safety with Citizens' Rights

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Racial Profiling: Balancing Safety with Citizens' Rights

Article excerpt

The recent articles, including one published June 29 on the Diverse website ("Confrontation Between Campus Security, Professor Puts Arizona State in Spotlight"), regarding the encounter between Dr. Ersula Ore, who is a female, African-American Arizona State University professor, and an ASU police officer, are an indication there are still risks associated with being a university professor. However, normally we do not associate being body slammed by a university police officer as one of them.

The video of this incident, which, like so many occurrences, was captured by a bystander and uploaded to social media, is very troubling for numerous reasons. What began as a simple matter of jaywalking, made necessary due to a sidewalk being closed for construction, escalated to the perception of racial profiling.

Racial profiling has been a problem in our society for decades. Clearly it has existed in America, as evident by this country's continuing effort to level the playing field associated with race. Despite many books, articles and discussions (the election and re-election of Barack Obama notwithstanding) to the contrary, ours is not a post-racial society. The problems of racial profiling persist.

However, profiling can take many forms. It is not limited to race. Individuals can also be profiled based on their gender, dress, religion, age and location. Where you are and who you are can also impact how you are treated by law enforcement.

The problem has always been how does one respond when being--or when having the perception of being--profiled. This is something that I share with my students. I teach at an HBCU in a county with a vigorous police department that also borders two unique municipalities, one being predominantly White and the other predominately African-American, both having the same type of law enforcement agencies.

As I also teach at a school with a diverse student body, the subject of profiling always comes up in my government class during our discussions on civil liberties, specifically related to crime, punishment and police practices. I sincerely feel that a students education cannot be limited to just what is contained in the textbook used in the classroom.

While it is impossible to provide a set answer regarding how to handle every potential situation where a person may be racially profiled, I have found reliable information in the book Driving While Black: Highways, Shopping Malls, Taxicabs, Sidewalks: How to Fight Back If You Are a Victim of Racial Profiling.

The author, Kenneth Meeks, provides useful advice. …

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