By Dawud Walid
Originally posted 5/3/12 by Dawud Walid
Our nation has a long history relating to racial and more recently religious profiling by law enforcement, which needs be legally halted once and for all through the passage of the End Racial Profiling Act (ERPA).
From driving while Black to traveling while Latino near border states to flying while Muslim or Sikh, racial and religious profiling continues to cause countless indignities, which have led to detainment without predication and even acts of violence against law-abiding persons. In 2009, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Rights Working Group sent a report to the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination stating: “Both Democratic and Republican administrations [in the United States] have acknowledged that racial profiling is unconstitutional, socially corrupting and counter-productive, yet this unjustifiable practice remains a stain on American democracy and an affront to the promise of racial equality.” But besides racial and religious profiling being humiliating to those who suffer it, it simply is not effective in deterring crime and contradicts empirical crime data.
As Ohio State Professor Michelle Alexander highlights in her book, “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness,” White Americans use and sell drugs in close proportion to their percentage in society, yet Black and Latino males are the primary persons apprehended by law enforcement on suspicion of drug related activity. There is no racial profile to who does or does not consume and sell illicit substances in our nation, which is why such profiling is ineffective.
According to the FBI’s statistics going back to 1980, 94 percent of domestic terrorism is committed by persons who are of various faiths outside of the religion of Islam, yet ACLU Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) litigation revealed in September 2011 that the FBI considered Metro Detroit a hotbed for potential terrorists because of our “large Middle-Eastern and Muslim population.”
In a veiled response last month to a CAIR lawsuit against the FBI, Customs Border Protection and Transportation Security Administration for asking invasive religious questions to Americans such as “Do you pray?” and “What mosque do you pray at?”, FBI Assistant Special Agent Todd Mayberry dismissed citizens’ concerns by rhetorically asking, “What really are the offensive questions here?”
Ironically, University of North Carolina Professor Charles Kuzman released a report on terrorism and homeland security in February 2011 using government data, which states that American Muslims cause “a minuscule threat to public safety.” More ironic is that the more religious or prayerful American Muslims are, the more likely they are to be adverse to violent extremism.
The End Religious Profiling Act will not only make it illegal for all law enforcement officers to use race and religion as means to profile persons and entire communities of color, but will also provide means to train officers to better police based upon behaviors, not race and religion.
We as Americans, once and for all, should loudly proclaim through federal law that racial and religious profiling is illegal and immoral. When we change the culture of profiling among our nation’s finest, perhaps it will lead to a general cultural shift in which we will see the end to the type of profiling that led to the death of Trayvon Martin at the hands of a private citizen.
Dawud Walid is the Exec. Director of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MI), and a board member of the Metropolitan Detroit Interfaith Workers’ Rights Committee. A decorated US Navy veteran, Dawud has presented about Islam/interfaith dialogue at over twenty institutions of higher learning, on panels with int'l leaders and academics, and in media outlets including Al-Jazeera, CNN, BBC Radio, FOX, NPR, the New York Times, USA Today, and the Wall Street Journal.