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14. September 2021

Racial profiling and what YOU can do about it

The term racial profiling is used in today’s society to suspect or discriminate individuals due to race, color, ethnicity, ancestry, religion, or national origin, or a combination of these categories (Hellman, 2014; Lippert- Rasmussen 2014, United Nation Human Rights 1996-2021). Officials, such as the police, use racial profiling as a legal basis for different activities e.g., identity checks or stops to judge particular individuals as an argument to protect public safety or security. Current research indicates that racial profiling is a global phenomenon, used as statistical discrimination to judge particular individuals based on characteristics highlighted above (Tilcsik, 2021, 86).

Current events indicate that the concept and use of racial profiling is disproportionally more often applied in the United States of America than in other places. This is due to the country’s history of slavery and its long path from servitude to freedom. As parts of the United States of America persist to believe in an ideology of white supremacy, racism and discrimination remain large problems for minorities in everyday live, Black community members are faced with numerous more disadvantages than whites. However, it is of high importance to note that racial profiling is a global issue. Generalizations are applied today by police and legal rules as well the power and education of the police differ from country to country. When looking at police brutality and linking this to recent events related to racial profiling, the aim of this paper is to educate readers on the urgent need to question the contemporary justice system and motivate them to speak up about racist behavior.

Racial profiling has long been the subject of intense debates as it is a multidimensional and complex topic. Therefore, it is not only difficult to discuss and hard to measure, but opinions often diverge. In the last couple of years, police brutality itself – but especially the case of George Floyd – has gained a considerable amount of international recognition and sparked public attention. Recent events, including the murder of George Floyd, but also that of 26-year-old Breonna Taylor, a Black medical worker shot and killed by Louisville police officers in March 2020, or the case of Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed 25-year-old Black male shot and killed by two civilians while jogging in Georgia, highlight the ongoing struggle to fight police brutality and racial profiling.

Latest research from students at Stanford University in California has shown that Black and Hispanic car drivers are more often searched by police officers in comparison to white or Asian drivers (Simoiu, Corbett-Davies, and Goel, 2017, 1193). In fact, out of all passengers, 5.4% of Black as well as 4.1% Hispanic people were searched, whereas only 3.1% of white drivers were stopped. This testing has turned out to be highly contrasting as Black and Hispanic drivers are to all extends and purposes less likely to be searched and found with drugs or other illegal objects than white and Asian drivers. Due to the discrepancies found in this study, concerns have been raised about racial profiling in terms of police searches.

Because of raised concern that has established over the past years, Stanford researchers have discovered an innovative method that not only underlines the results of the research stated above but shows how the pattern of a certain behavior is consistently being observed and therefore not an isolated case. The intention of this method named threshold test is to investigate police officers’ behavior in situations where racial profiling is likely to occur. This method has shown that proper techniques must be developed and improved for all police officers in order to eliminate racist actions.

Racial profiling is commonly seen as something that only appears in the context of law enforcement (police stops, interrogations, investigations, identity checks, …). We tend to overlook our personal lives, even though racial profiling can also be seen in the workplace, where minorities often don´t rise to positions as high as their white colleagues. The reason why prejudice against innocent minorities remains to exist even in western countries is because people – especially adults – often inherit a negative bias that they will generally pass on to their children as their minds shape and they grow up.

This vicious cycle of raising children to hold these discriminatory attitudes will continue to spread if future generations do not educate themselves about this matter and awareness is not raised. Children and young adults must recognize the issue of racial profiling and must work on establishing a healthier environment amongst their fellow citizens.

Current publications argue that the severe concept of racial profiling is curable. Curing the “disease” of longstanding racial profiling is to be made within oneself. People must investigate themselves and acknowledge their behaviors and reflect them as far as possible. Yet, racial profiling is not only a problem within people themselves but also an institutional issue that is still to be managed. In order to eliminate racial profiling from society, change is to be made in current law enforcements.

Clearly, racial profiling is a topic where we must distinguish between several aspects: this topic cannot be generalized because there are those police officers who are aware that they are intentionally hurting their victims and there are those who are doing their jobs properly. In that sense, racial profiling shows us the immense power that police forces hold in our society.

When looking at this paper, we come to see that more work must be done in terms of preventing and stopping the spread of racial profiling. Recent events have forced societies to look behind the screens of televisions, shed light on reality, and question certain behaviors. It will take time and patience to solve this issue and overcome this toxic thinking pattern. Innocent minorities are killed at the hands of law enforcement, so naturally, as privileged people, we must raise our voices to speak for the voiceless, make our voices be heard, and take the necessary steps to put an end to this long-standing issue.

(English S3, Mrs. Gellermann)



Delsol, R. (2015). Racial profiling, Criminal Justice Matters, 101:1, 34-35

Hellman, D. (2014). Racial Profiling and the Meaning of Racial Categories. In Contemporary Debates in Applied Ethics, 2nd ed., Chichester, UK: John Wiley and Sons 232–45.

Lippert-Rasmussen, K. (2014). Born Free and Equal? A Philosophical Inquiry into the Nature of Discrimination. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press.

Simoiu, C.  Corbett-Davies, S, Sharad Goel, C. (2017). ‚The problem of infra-marginality in outcome tests for discrimination.’ Ann. Appl. Stat. 11 (3) 1193 – 1216, September 2017.

Tilcsik, A. (2021). Statistical Discrimination and the Rationalization of Stereotypes. American Sociological Review, 86(1)


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