We Are Also Victims of “Racial Profiling”. – Dongsuk Kim
‘Racial Profiling’ is a controversial police investigative tool used by the American police force. Although profiling typically refers to a gathering of information, when used in forensics, it refers to an act of apprehending a suspect by deducing an offender’s habits, age, personality, occupation, characteristics, and crime scene behaviors and methods based on the evidence gathered at the crime scene. Making prosecutorial charging decisions based on the offender’s race and ethnicity during a crime investigation, and randomly stopping and frisking African-Americans or Latino on streets are a few common examples of racial profiling.
Since the 9/11 terrorism attack, Arabs and people of the Middle East have been easily regarded as terrorist suspects and have become targets of focused body searches on airports, and this too, can be seen as an epitomizing example of racial profiling.
In 1693, a district court of Philadelphia assigned a special authority to its local police force; the police were conferred a legal right to stop and frisk any African Americans and arrest suspects without a warrant. This initiated the onset of “Racial Profiling”, which has been practiced in the U.S. for more than 300 years. Such discriminatory practice has plagued ethnic minorities for a long time. Ironically, although New York City is known as the hodgepodge of multiethnic groups, NYPD is the most notorious for its practice of racial profiling.
For 8 years since 1993, the former mayor Giuliani employed “Zero Tolerance Policy” in an attempt to reduce the crime rates in New York City. Following the implementation of Giuliani’s policy, New York City experienced a significant decline of crime rates, and soon his policy started to gain an epidemic popularity. Based on the crime statistics that indicated that a majority of violent criminals are males of color in their 10~30’s, the police was able to lower the crime rates by performing a ‘preliminary inspection’ of anyone who fell under the above category. Such is the underlying reason that African Americans in their 20’s~30’s have become the easy targets of NYPD. Not long after the policy was implemented, the authority was exploited and many young African males who did not comply with the police’s forceful inspection were either shot to death or battered by the police, further leading into a race riot or protest against police brutality and discrimination. In order to put a halt into the cycle, the former president Bill Clinton proclaimed a ban of “Racial Profiling” but the practice still continues to exist.
In July, in Staten Island, Eric Garner, who was suspected of illegally selling single cigarettes from packs without tax stamps, was surrounded by a group of policemen. In a cell phone video taken by a pedestrian, Eric Garner, a heavily built man, appears to be gesticulating with his hands. Later, one of the policemen, present at the scene approached Garner and wrapped his arm around Garner’s neck in an attempt to pull him down. After lying face down onto the ground, Garner repeated “I can’t breathe” 11 times, which the police ignored. Garner was handcuffed while he was still unconscious, and was pronounced dead approximately one hour later at the hospital. On December 3, 2014, a grand jury decided not to indict the officer Pantaleo. After the Staten Island grand jury decided not to indict Pantaleo, people in New York City gathered in protest. This incident further ignited the wrath of the black community which was already deeply enraged by the non-indictment decision of the police shooting of an unarmed teenage black man, Michael Brown. Many days have passed since the deaths of two black men, but the heat of the protests still continues.
Michael Brown, an 18-year-old black man, visited his grandmother’s house in Ferguson, Missouri. On his way home from a nearby convenience store, Brown was fatally shot to death by a 28-year-old white Ferguson police officer, Darren Wilson. Brown, an unarmed teenager, was shot seven or eight times, all from the front.
This happened in August, 2014. Enraged black people gathered in groups and violently protested against the police brutality on ethnic minorities. The prosecutor in charge handed the case over to the grand jury of the county, leaving to jurors the decision of what charges might be brought, if any. After nearly four months, the jury decided to drop the charges against the white officer, Darren Wilson. Angered by the decision of the grand jury, the black community started to come together for protests and civil disorder, which lasted for several days.
Although the victim’s family and representatives of the black community had questioned the impartiality of the investigation and asked for an appointment of an independent special prosecutor to take over the case, the prosecutor in charge passed the decision making authority to the predominantly white grand jury. A civil protest was not unforeseen, which eventually turned into a chaotic civil disorder and vehement riot, including arson and robbery.
These two incidents remind me of the hurtful memory of L.A. riot that happened nearly twenty years ago. And I would like to take this opportunity to emphatically address the two recurring problems of the Korean American community. The first is our chronic racial bias, and the second is our lack of interaction with other ethnic groups. In fact, other ethnic minority groups, especially the Hispanic and Latino Americans and black community, don’t consider the Korean American community as intimate. We should look at ourselves with an objective point of view and see if we are tolerating or even utilizing the white supremacy mindset. Additionally, other ethnic minority groups have pointed out that the Korean American community do not come together and work with one mind at times of troubling difficulties. Indeed, despite the high prevalence of Korean churches and other religious organizations, the Korean American community is somewhat apathetic toward the problems of the local community. We need to resolve these issues. In order to interact and cooperate with other ethnic minority groups, we need to engage ourselves in the political exchanges with them—Korean Americans need to promote our civic engagement.
Even though protests against the excessive exercise of police and governmental power are spreading throughout communities, the Korean American community is still maintaining its silence; it is saying nothing about the current incidents of racial prejudice. Such passive reaction is so drastically different from the time when it used to speak up and shout out for representation of Korean Americans. If not now, when is it important to show the leadership of the Korean American community?