The American Civil Liberties Union is fighting back against racial profiling. To that end they held a forum in Washington, D.C. to bring the issue into the light. The session began with a brief video that featuring an unnamed Muslim man from New York City who believes he was wrongfully stopped by a police officer.
“I was a young Muslim kid in the wrong neighborhood. The cop told me so,” he said. “It didn’t matter that I was stripped of my clothes, it was being stripped of my dignity that I had a problem with.”
Laura Murphy, ACLU director, believes instances like this are common and that it’s time for them to stop. “Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. talked about the fierce urgency of now. Well there’s a fierce urgency needed in the Obama administration and the Congress to end racial profiling.”
The group is bringing attention to the End of Racial Profiling Act, which goes before a House Committee Nov. 4. It is aimed at preventing law enforcement from subjecting a person to heightened scrutiny based on race, ethnicity, religion or national origin except when there is trustworthy information linking the person to a crime.
It seems like a pretty straightforward piece of legislation but ACLU members say racial profiling has become increasingly acceptable in a post-Sept. 11 world.
“We represent some kids in Detroit who were stopped by the police and the bikes they were riding on were confiscated just because they were the wrong race, in the wrong part of town. We can all feel the sense of heartbreak that can result when people are faced with injustice. Racial profiling has a real impact on real people,” said Jennifer Bellamy, ACLU legislative counsel.
The group also calls into question a federal program that appears to target ethnic minorities. According to the ACLU, the Secure Communities program requires fingerprints of people brought in for even minor infractions, to be run through a national immigration database.
“What’s troubling is that the Secure Communities program is activated in communities where the Justice Department is already investigating local law enforcement for discriminatory policing,” said Joanne Lin, another ACLU legislative counsel.
The ACLU is requesting a meeting with the Obama administration to express their concerns about questionable practices being done in the name of law enforcement.
“We need to definitely have more pressure directed toward the president, who has not made civil rights one of his platform issues.” Lin said.
The young man featured in the introductory video put the issue of racial profiling into perspective when he said, “This is still the land of opportunity. This is America. But every beautiful face has an ugly side to it.”
(Photo: John Moore/Getty Images)