III. The Impact of Stereotypical Biases Toward African-American Males

Stereotypical biases directed at African-American males by law enforcement officials has resulted in a disproportionate number of African-American males being stopped and searched. It is pre-supposed by many law enforcement officials that African-American males are engaged in criminal activities, especially drug dealing. This sentiment by many law enforcement officers became evident when the New Jersey Chief of Troopers defended racial profiling by stating that mostly minorities were engaged in the trafficking of marijuana and cocaine. It should be obvious that if law enforcement agencies focus the enforcement of drug laws toward African-American males, and ignore whites based on stereotypical biases, African-American males will be disproportionately stopped and searched. Thus, it will appear they are the only segment of the country's population engaged in criminal drug activities. In turn, the data from one jurisdiction will be relied on by another to justify the racial profiling of African-American males; thus, the discriminatory conduct is perpetuated.

The mere appearance, talk, walk, and dress of African-American males are viewed in a negative light by many white Americans. Moreover, African-American males who travel through white neighborhoods may find themselves stopped and pulled over by law enforcement officials and investigated. An African-American male who drives a foreign sports or luxury car is almost certain to be stopped by law enforcement for suspicion of drug trafficking or car theft. As a result of discriminatory stops, African-American males are disproportionately arrested by law enforcement officers. Negative images of this group and stereotypical biases directed at its members may automatically lead to them being stopped and arrested. Due to such biases, law enforcement officials assume that every African-American male is a threat to them, and to society.

Racial profiling due to stereotypical biases also has a direct correlation to the high incarceration rate of African-American males, especially those between the ages of twenty and thirty nine. Moreover targeting minorities for traffic stops, especially African-American and Hispanic males, may enhance their sentence for other crimes, if the traffic violation is considered in determining their penalty. Unfortunately, the killing of African-American males by law enforcement officials may have a direct correlation to the percentage of African-Americans being stopped.

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Vernellia R. Randall
Professor Emerita of Law

The University of Dayton
School of Law
Dayton, OH 45469-2772
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