Citizens Against Police Abuse
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Prejudice is bias. Prejudice refers to the negative opinions, judgements, beliefs, and feelings held about individuals because of their membership in certain groups or catagories. When these negative views lead to adverse actions toward these individuals and groups, the result is discrimination.
Racism is racial prejudice that has been incorporated into the activities and procedures of law enforcement agencies, social systems, (such as those related to housing, education, and health), and other arenas of major social activity (such as politics, the media, finance, and banking). Racism serves both to discriminate against ethnic minorities and to maintain advantages and benefits for White Americans.
Racial profiling, the practice of targeting people for police examination based on their race or ethnicity, has been a long-standing issue in communities of color. However, it has been difficult to prove, because police departments do not keep comprehensive statistics on whom they stop. However, recently racial profiling has received an unprecedented level of attention. For example, New Jersey's Governor, Christine Todd Whitman (R), issued a report documenting racial profiling on the New Jersey Turnpike. The Whitman report validated the opinions of many civil rights activists, lawyers, and victims that racial profiling does exist.
In racial profiling cases, law enforcement officers may use stereotypical notions of African Americans as potential perpetrators of criminal behavior in determining whom to stop. As a result, more African Americans and Hispanics than other racial groups routinely stopped, and are often wrongfully detained and searched. Although they have the legal right to refuse a search, many may fear possible repercussions of doing so.
Psychologists have found that, in general, people hold stereotyped, often prejudiced, and unrealistic views of other racial groups. Several studies have indicated that many whites believe that African Americans and Hispanics are more likely to be involved in criminal behavior than other racial groups.
However, law enforcement officers that participate in racial profiling are no longer assessing individual characteristics, rather they are using stereotypes of racial groups, to make decisions. This type of racism and/or discrimination based on stereotypes can have a devastating impact on African Americans and Hispanics who are stopped for no other reason than the color of their skin.