The Thoughts of an Educated Young African American Male

Understanding Racial Profiling

The framework of this entry is based in the legal profession which I will be employed shortly. I intern during the year at a local district attorney’s office. There, I interact with roughly 300 or so African Americans per day. I see many African Americans at the trial and punishment phase for the crimes they commit. As such, I have a duty to run their criminal records for sentencing purposes. After performing such searches for over a year, I have become immune to African American mens and women’s records which are 6 – 8 pages long, with conviction after conviction for a multitude of crimes. When they are in court, they dress as they would in their normal life: long white tee shirts; big baggy jeans; long chain around their neck; and a hat if the bailiff did not make them take it off.

 

In undergrad we were required to take a class called psychology. There, we learned the concept of conditioned stimuli. The concepts’ premise is that when you see or hear something repeatedly (the condition) and it is accompanied by a certain result (stimuli) you will eventually expect the result (stimuli) every time you see or hear the condition. The concept is similar to training a dog. If you point your finger down and tell the dog to sit (condition), once the dog knows he will get a treat every time he obeys the command (stimuli), he will do it mostly every time.  

 

When people in court see black men and women dressed a certain way 300 times a day (condition), and run their records half the time, seeing long records of convictions most of the time (stimuli), they become conditioned to believing that most every young black person they see in their personal lives dressed that way has a long record for the crimes like the people we see in court.   

 

Further, there is nothing in these white peoples lives to break the condition. When they go home, they have no reason to interact with blacks who look that way. Of course, they work with other blacks and went to school with many others. But, those blacks seem different and outside the condition. They do not wear their jeans baggy, with a big white tee-shirt, and a straight brimmed hat. Thus, they do not place the blacks they know within the conditioned group. The result is that when you dress a certain way (like anyone in a basic rap video) you will be perceived by these whites to have a long criminal record.  And, I do not condone such stereotyping. However, I must say, I understand where it comes from.

 

Some will say, they don’t know the real me. That is true. But, they do not have to get to know you. They see many blacks on a daily basis, and a person’s record is as much a reflection of their person and character as anything. 6-8 pages of convictions for assaults, larcenies, theft crimes, and violent crimes tells a white person all they need to know. We may not like it, but its real.

 

All of this just to say, we need to break the mold and do better to stop the conditioned stimuli.   

December 3, 2006 Posted by | African American, Black men, Black women, college, court, Law, racial profiling, teens, university | 5 Comments