“A police stop in New York City is not a minor inconvenience. It is a frightening and humiliating experience, one that more often than not leaves people mistrustful of the police and changes their daily routines,” said CCR Executive Director Vincent Warren in the Huffington Post. According to Warren, the stop-and-frisk policy makes entire communities feel targeted and under siege—particularly black and Latino men, but also others, such as the poor and the homeless, youth, immigrants, religious minorities and LGBTQ people.
“But unless you’ve been stopped yourself, or you live in city neighborhoods where hundreds of people get stopped each day, you don’t know what it’s like to live under these conditions,” Warren added. “You don’t know what it’s like to walk around feeling constantly targeted; when ‘you’re a person of color; you already ‘fit the description,’’ as one man put it. You may not understand the corrosive effect of living in neighborhoods that are described as ‘an occupied zone’ where residents feel ‘like you’re in an outside prison,’ as another described it.”
Racial profiling by police is part of a process that funnels blacks and Latinos into the prison system and death row at disproportionate rates. Based on data from the Death Penalty Information Center, of the 140 people freed from death row since 1973 due to their innocence, over half were African-American, and 60 percent were black or Latino.
According to a new national registry of exonerations, of the hundreds of people who were wrongfully convicted of murder, misconduct by police and prosecutors was a contributing factor in 56 percent of these cases—a leading factor, along with perjury and eyewitness misidentification. Further, while faulty eyewitness identification was a factor in 80 percent of sexual assault exonerations, over two-thirds of sexual assault exonerations due to eyewitness error involved black defendants. And 72 percent of the time, the victim was white.
Further, a Cornell University study found that when victims in a murder case are white, black defendants with stereotypically black features are more likely to receive a death sentence (58 percent) than those who do not (24 percent).
When TJ Holmes says that “Driving while black ain’t no joke,” believe him. Racial profiling is serious business, even dead serious. And if you’re a potential target of racial profiling, don’t sleep. Racial profiling means that any black man will do. After all, he “fits the description” even when no crime has been committed, because he must have done something wrong, due to his skin color, in the first place.
Follow David A. Love on Twitter at @davidalove