Racial profiling: how research from criminal justice, philosophy and history can help the problem

by audreylegault on April 13, 2015 - 11:52pm

News Article: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-32223868



Once again, protests are being held to fight police brutality in America. A video emerged of a black unarmed man running away from a police officer that was shooting him. The victim, Walter Scott, was shot multiple times in the back. This video discredited the police officer that claimed that he feared for his life after the victim “tried to grab his stung gun”. Indeed, it could be seen that the stunt gun was dropped near Scott’s body after he was fatally shot.


Both protesters and local politicians went outside of the City Hall to express their discontent. Contrary to the protests that followed the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, they have been small. However, their claims are the same: African Americans are feeling discriminated and persecuted by the police throughout the whole country.


The police officer that committed this murder is now facing murder charges. However, a lot of people believe that he would not have met this fate if the video never surfaced. Again, the horrible murder of Walter Scott just further exposed police brutality and racial profiling problems in America. Scott was only one of the many unarmed black man that died at the hand of a white police officer. Whether they want to admit this was racial profiling, People of Color keep on dying at the hand of law enforcement, for things that would never get a white person a gun pointed at. Fortunately, Scott’s murderer was charged for murder, but thousands of other victims did not get justice:

·         Jerame Reid was shot dead in December 2014 when he was trying to exit his car, hands raised.

·         Tamir Rice died in November 2014 when he playing with a toy gun in a playground. He was 12 and there is still no confirmation whether the police will be charged.

·         Michael Brown died in August 2014, hands air. The police officer that shot him dead faced no charge in front of a grand jury.

·         Eric Garner was choked to death on July 2014. He died after repeatedly saying that he couldn’t breathe. The police faced no charge.

·         James Boyd was shot dead by two police officers on March 2014. Fortunately, they were charged.

It is important to note that those are just a few of the atrocities that happened in the last year. For all of these events, the victims were unarmed and the police officers were filmed committing the crime. These are not just isolated cases; these are proofs of systematic oppression. Racial profiling is a recurring issue that should be addressed.


I have written about civil rights issues in my past posts, mostly about racism and women’s rights. Those three articles that I’ve written inspired me to look closer at racism in our society: islamophobia, article summary: In Tamir Rice Case…, article summary: Rania El-Alloul…. I will write a research paper that will discuss of racial profiling. It will answer the following question: is racial profiling in the US justified? Using criminal justice, philosophy, and history as major academic disciplines, I will explore the issue in depth in order to provide an answer to this question.


This first article is from the University of Chicago Law Review. This article provides an outlook coming from legal and constitutional scholars, as well as other scholars working in the justice system on racial profiling and criminal profiling. Even though it discusses racial profiling and not police shooting, it provides some interesting facts about criminal profiling and its aggravation of prejudices that creates biases into the law. This fact can be related to police shootings that are usually cause by the biases that white police officers have against other races. Looking at racial profiling through criminal justice would bring direct insight on laws that are harsher on people of color and on the laws that are against racial profiling in the US. The second article from academic journal Philosophy and Public Affairs discuss racial profiling and the philosophical question surrounding it. It tackles issues that relates to the use of racial profiling in a police department. It also argues on when it might prove itself to be useful in law enforcement. The third article is a response to the second article found in the same academic journal and discusses some important points that needed to be further discussed. Using philosophy as a way to argue this essay’s question will provide a perspective on the issue that will really look in the depth of the philosophy found behind racial profiling and its uses in different situations that are linked to police shooting or racism in this country. This final article discusses the historical evolution of racial profiling in the US. By looking at the issue from the beginning, it might provide a better understanding of the “modern form” of racial profiling. Again, this academic discipline would prove itself to be pertinent in this essay as it demonstrate how different forms of racisms that I’ve related in previous articles came to life.


There are various undergrad programs at McGill University that relates to the academic disciplines that I will research. For example, it provides undergrad programs in history, Islamic studies, philosophy, law that are all relevant to this research.