Discrimination still plays an incredibly large role in society today. Varying throughout many groups, races, genders, etc., people are currently continuing to live through the struggle of being judged based off of physical appearance. The dictionary defines the word discrimination as “the unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people or things, especially on the grounds of race, age, or sex.” Much like any other definition of most words, digging a little bit deeper than a textbook interpretation to fully comprehend the word is a necessity. In relation to the researched topic at hand, discrimination is heavily incorporated in the enforcing of laws, and routine traffic stops in particular. It is inexcusable to think that as far as we have come as a nation, that members of society are still heavily discriminated against.
The concept of discrimination is morally wrong and unjust however it is looked at. What is even worse is that this group of minorities being discriminated against are now potentially getting into trouble with the law based on how they look. In Christopher Ingraham’s article, “You Really Can Get Pulled Over For Driving While Black, Federal Statistics Show,” proclaims, “Perhaps most troubling from a civil liberties perspective, nearly five percent of blacks weren’t given any reason for why they were stopped, compared with 2.6 percent of whites and 3.3 percent of Hispanics.” This quote speaks volumes toward the issue at hand. Astoundingly, nearly double the amount of African Americans as compared to caucasians are not even informed as to why they are pulled over. This is where the line must be drawn. There is already no room for racism and discrimination, and now it has been blown so far out of proportion that these people being discriminated against have to pay money for it and possibly have a tainted record.
On the other hand, while discrimination is real and potentially harmful in today’s society, it is also interesting to take into consideration what race the police officers happen to be in the same situation. For example, the statistics show that roughly five percent of African Americans are not given a reason for why they are stopped, but would these traffic stops be considered equally as discriminatory if the police officer making the stop was a minority as well? It is most certainly a very intriguing factor in all of this, because if a black police officer pulls over a black man, very few people’s initial reaction is that the cop is racist. Whereas if it were a white cop in the same situation, the very first thought that comes across most everyone’s mind in society today is that it was for discriminatory purposes. This does not automatically make it acceptable for a black police officer to pull over another black man without a reason, but in the big picture, it simply raises suspicion about an officer’s motive.
One of the worst parts about this issue is that the discrimination does not begin and end with simple traffic stops. From illegal searches of a vehicle to license suspensions and tickets, how an officer chooses to discipline a man or woman that they went out of their way to pull over because of their appearance can be equally discriminatory. Recently, it has even been escalated to these citizens having their lives taken away from them in what could have just been a routine traffic stop. Just recently this past July, a Minnesota police officer shot and killed a black man after pulling him over for a broken tail light. In this instance, it is not clear that he was pulled over because he was black, given that there was a tail light out. Nevertheless, this is something that is rarely ever heard about with a white man on the fatal end of gunpoint. It has gotten so bad that in many places, whenever a police officer even approaches a minority, people take their phones out to record what happens in anticipation of it going awry. When it becomes expected that these stops will go wrong to this extent, something must be done about it.
If our country chooses to turn a blind eye to this, we have seen that a revolt is not unrealistic. In her article, “The Big Question About Why Police Pull Over So Many Black Drivers,” Kim Soften asserted that following the fatal shooting of Philando Castile, snipers in Dallas killed five police officers and injured more. This country is not far from potentially going into a civil war between police and African Americans, and the root of it all is none other than the negative power of discrimination.
Needless to say, so many different problems stem from judging and disciplining somebody based off of their race and appearance. Racism and discrimination have been around for hundreds of years in this country and it would be nice to be able to say that we have come such a long way as a country, but the fact that this is still an issue in 2016 is proof that laws may have changed, but many people’s mindsets have not. It is that toxic belief in discrimination that has set the progress of this nation back.
When it comes to police officers pulling over minorities for discriminatory reasons, the causal chain that follows has proven to be extremely controversial and sometimes even fatal. These looming problems could be non existent if officers used their authority properly on a consistent basis. The specific issue at hand exists in the first place because police officers in today’s society do not always use their discretion to pull drivers over simply for issues relating to the law, but rather because of their discriminatory mentality. Christopher Ingraham claims that “approximately a two percent higher amount of blacks than whites are actually not even given a reason for why they have been pulled over when they get stopped,” in his article, “You Really Can Get Pulled Over For Driving While Black, Federal Statistics Show.” Two percent may not sound extremely high, but when the percentage of whites not given a reason is only at 2.6, then it is almost double the amount of blacks that go through the same thing.
The causal chain that tends to occur in this situation is that discriminating police officers pulling over a higher number of minorities than any other group, then leads to these minorities resenting police officers because they abuse their authority. In addition to that, whether the driver or officer are being particularly way too difficult at the time, things have taken an abrupt, violent turn for the worst.
The Constitution begins by stating that “all men are equal”, yet the society we live in has proven that although it is in The Constitution, it is still far from true. In relation to discrimination by officers potentially turning violent, it is important to understand that the discrimination does not just stop when the car is pulled over. Much like how The Constitution states that all men are equal but still are not treated equally, the 14th Amendment provides equal protection and not allowing discrimination while driving, but that is also not applied consistently. As a nation, we cannot be oblivious and neglect the fact that regardless of what The Constitution may say, law enforcement does not faithfully abide to it. Minorities are referred to as such because there are less of them in our country than whites. Nevertheless, more blacks are pulled over than whites. Minorities making up the majority of people pulled over is a staggering statistic that should not be overlooked.
Just a few months ago, an African-American man named Philando Castile was shot and killed by a police officer in his car in Minnesota. The car was pulled over for a broken taillight, which is understandable. Nevertheless, the man had a 5 year old girl in the back seat when the officer shot him. There was a woman in the passenger seat that started recording the situation on her phone after shots were fired, and her statement explaining the killing was that, ”he let the officer know that he had a firearm and he was reaching for his wallet and the officer just shot him in his arm,” Elliot McLaughlin reports in his article, “Woman Streams Aftermath of Fatal Officer-Involved Shooting.” He had a permit for the gun and went out of his way to make the officer aware he had it. It may not be known how this would have unfolded had the driver been white, but taking into consideration that the society we live in today is full of discrimination and hate, most people would believe that this officer was slightly more on-edge and trigger-happy due to the color of the man on the opposite end of the barrel.
The issue does not just begin and end with a simple traffic stop, either. “The racial disparity isn’t just limited to stops. Other police-driver contact — searches, tickets, arrests and license suspensions — show similar racial skews,” Kim Soften states in “The Big Question About Why Police Pull Over So Many Black Drivers.” This is what leads to the majority of these minorities resenting and not respecting the authority. Many of them may have to deal with ensuing legal issues after getting pulled over, that would not have happened had this epidemic been a thing of the past.
As far as the anticipated rebuttals to this argument go, it is clear that not everybody shares a similar viewpoint on this topic. If everybody had the same mindset about it, it probably would not be a problem. Some rebuttals are indisputably true as well, such as the fact that African American police officers pull over black people as well, so it is unlikely a man would discriminate against someone the same color as him. Nevertheless, with that being said, that does not account for every single traffic stop. It is an exception to the discriminatory pattern of white against black, but yet it cannot be ignored that the percentage of those occurrences is minuscule in relation to the typical white cop, black driver scenario.
As much as our nation would probably like to say that discrimination was a thing of the past, it is not. These are real issues and racism is still alive. Just because it does not come in the visual form of segregation in the early 1900s, does not mean it is gone and over with. It is clearly unknown what it will take to change the discriminatory mindset of the people in our society today, but at this rate it looks like we are on pace to set our country back 100 years and something must be done about it. Yes, we have had a black president, but it is as if we took one step forward and two steps back by now electing a man who openly makes racist and discriminatory remarks in many of his debates and press conferences. There were actually riots when Obama was elected. This shows that a good amount of this country was not ready for a black president. If racial profiling still happened under a black president, they certainly will not improve or just go away under the government of a man who sustains a discriminatory mentality.
Although there are many different statistics supporting the fact that discrimination on the road is a legitimate issue, there are many rebuttals that arise from this hot topic. To name a few, some may argue that many traffic stops including black drivers are just a coincidence that they are minorities and actually did something illegal to get pulled over. Others say that a large contributing factor into this issue is what race the officer is that is making the stop. For example, it could be considered to have less discriminatory intent if a black officer pulls over a black man. With all of this being said, both of these are legitimate points and do occur, but yet, they do not nearly account for the majority of stops with an African American in the car.
As far as the color of the police officer goes, it affects how society and the driver view the situation in a way that can seem less discriminatory, but still it is not that way one-hundred percent of the time. An African American officer can still discriminate against a man or woman of the same race. It may seem less suspicious seeing it, but it can not be overlooked. The color of a person’s skin does not always go hand in hand with their mindset and outlook on life. There is no saying that a black man and white man cannot share the same stereotypical mindset towards black people. To build off of this thought to an extent, Kia Makareche, in his article “What The Data Really Says About Police and Racial Bias,” stated that “a 2010 governor’s task force examining police-on-police shootings found even black and Latino police officers face a greater risk of being killed by police. In cases of mistaken identity, 9 out of the 10 off-duty officers killed by other officers in the United States since 1982 were black or Latino.” So it may be assumed that being a police officer may grant them safety from other officers regardless of skin color, but even then, there are officers so blinded by hate and stereotypes that they forget what they know and act on what they see in certain situations.
In addition to the rebuttal of same-race officers and drivers, people who disagree with the claim that racial profiling while driving is a real issue may counter the argument by saying any one of the stops that happen daily could be a coincidence. The Office of Justice Programs, in their informative article “Traffic Stops,” claimed that “stopped drivers reported speeding as the most common reason for being pulled over in 2011.” Speeding is a very common and easy excuse to use, but without jumping to conclusions, this does support the fact that a large amount of stops could be for justified reasons. The thought is that these black drivers could be pulled over simply because they are breaking the law. While this may hold true for a fair amount of instances, it does not explain why nearly 2 percent more blacks (4.7%) are pulled over without a reason than whites (2.6%), according to Christopher Ingraham in his article titled “You Really Can Get Pulled Over For Driving While Black, Federal Statistics Show.” That statistic is unsettling because if somebody deserves to be pulled over for their driving, regardless of race, then so be it. But with that being said, minorities should not double the amount of whites in a category like this. They are called minorities for a reason, and that is because there are less of them in this country. Therefore, to lead substantially in that category leads to a much worse ratio than whites also getting pulled over without a reason.
Another example of the skewed ratios that were reported by Kim Soften in her article, “The Big Question About Why Police Pull Over So Many Black Drivers,” is that “a study of Connecticut traffic stops in 2014 and 2015 — among the states with the most recent data — found that 14 percent of traffic stops targeted black drivers, despite them making up only 9 percent of the state’s population.” Yet again, this supports the claim that these stops are not all simply coincidental. This is also a very recent study, so as we think we made tremendous progress with an African American president over the last 8 years, which we did to an extent, many people still continued to turn a blind eye to racism and discrimination in its various different forms.
Furthermore, there are logical and understandable rebuttals to this issue in society. Nevertheless, they can be refuted as well. People who pretend it is not real and deny certain statistics may be part of the problem. If more people in this country were open-minded and socially aware we would have a better opportunity to push for change, justice, and equality. To conclude, the great and wise Mahatma Gandhi once said, “be the change you wish to see in the world.” This quote is still relevant today and to this situation in particular, because collectively, we as a nation hold the power to make any change we wish if and when we come together to achieve a common goal.
Ingraham, Christopher. “You Really Can Get Pulled Over For Driving While Black, Federal Statistics Show” The Washington Post, 09 Sept. 2014. Web. 1 Dec. 2016
Soften, Kim. “The Big Question About Why Police Pull Over So Many Black Drivers” The Washington Post, 08 July 2016. Web. 1 Dec. 2016
McLaughlin, Elliot. “Woman Streams Aftermath of Fatal Officer-Involved Shooting” CNN. 08 July, 2016. Web. 06 Nov. 2016
Office of Justice Programs. “Traffic Stops” Bureau of Justice Statistics, Dec. 2016. Web. 1 Dec. 2016
Makarechi, Kia. “What The Data Really Says About Police and Racial Bias” Hive, 14 July 2016. Web. 1 Dec. 2016