Commentary: Racial Profiling Continues Plaguing America

A study shows Blacks are far more likely to get pulled over in Milwaukee than whites. And it doesn’t end there.

Posted: 05/10/2012 06:13 PM EDT

While racial profiling in the world’s airports continues finding Arabs, Muslims and other brown people detained at security checkpoints, Black Americans’ long battle against profiling continues here in cities around the country. Post-racial America? Try telling that to Black people living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

According to a new report from the Milwaukee Police Department itself, Blacks made up the vast majority of traffic stops in 2011 in four of the seven police districts.

Reports Milwaukee radio station WTMJ:

"In District 7, 9 out of 10 traffic stops involved an African-American driver in 2011. By contrast, just 8 percent of people stopped in District 7 were white.

In District 4, 86 percent of people stopped were Black. The number in District 5, 84 percent.  In District 3, 80 percent of people stopped were Black."


To be fair to the police, all of those districts have at least a 50 percent Black population, and some have 75 percent Black populations. Still, WTMJ says that none has 90 percent Black population, as pulling over Blacks nine out of 10 times might indicate. Throughout Milwaukee in general, a Black driver is seven times as likely to be pulled over as a white driver.

Milwaukee isn’t the only American city stopping Black people for no reason, of course. As you may well know, New York City has of late been using its notorious “stop and frisk” tactic to try and stop crime.

What does the tactic entail? Mostly just randomly stopping young Black and Latino men on the street and demanding to see what’s in their pockets and bags. Exacerbating the indignity of being stopped for no cause on the street is the fact that the vast majority of the men and women asked to empty their pockets, 90 percent, for the cops are innocent.

That this is such a common problem in big cities should give you pause when you consider the incarceration rates of Black men, who tend to be behind bars or in the justice system at wildly disproportionate rates. Might that have something to do with the fact that police suspect Blacks of crimes more often, despite the fact that, for instance, whites teens are more likely to be involved with drugs and alcohol than Black teens?

One great question to ask about American justice isn’t whether police are good or bad, as people so often debate about; it’s this: Who are the police policing?


The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.


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