According to various studies, the political-philosophical debate on racial profiling tends to lead to two conclusions. Lever (2017) claims the first concept adheres to the debate of whether statistical discrimination about certain groups or group behaviors is a valid source for judgment of a particular individual. This position is a reflection of a society in which all are presumed equal but do not necessarily have to be treated the same.
The second approach focuses on racial profiling as a part of a wider problem and the one encouraging and defining the nature of hierarchies and social privileges based on skin color and other racial characteristics. It sidesteps the focus of the first approach, which analyzes the justifications for judging groups of people based on certain characteristics (Zack, 2017). It is more concerned with the way associations are formed between minority groups and condemned behavior, such as committing crimes, and how these assumptions are the core of many cases of inequality and oppression.
Many philosophical discourses focus on racial profiling outside its practice, such as when it is employed by police forces. Despite the debates that the process itself does not endanger any particular individual to bodily harm or is not humiliating, violent, or derogatory, in practice it proves to be detrimental. The current standards for justice are not in line with racial profiling in the slightest. It is described as a method to detect and prevent crime, utilized by law enforcement through the identification of race when investigating and selecting suspects.
The controversy is deeply ingrained in the fact that preemptive investigation, an accusation before a crime was committed at its roots, is under heavy scrutiny from a philosophical standpoint. The case for racial profiling weakens when such preventative actions and their interventions are based on race. This then forms a cycle in which the individuals who are more likely to be apprehended by police are more likely to become victims of police brutality.
Generalizations are not only the core of racial profiling but a substantial part of police work. It is an essential part of most human lives. Many judgments and life choices are based on generalizations performed daily whether it concerns our actions, other people, objects, and values. Therefore, some argue such generalizations are vital to police work whether racial profiling is a part of it or not. However, the emphasis on racial discrimination surpasses all the other judgments made in police work, such as those based on behavior. Racial profiling of minorities, for instance, black people, is treated more severely because the effects of such discrimination are very damaging (Nadal, Davidoff, Allicock, Serpe, & Erazo, 2017).
Risse and Zeckhauser explain the significance of this by comparing that although a majority of identified serial killers are white men, it hardly impacts police investigations (Gordon, 2016). They argue the policy definitions for serial killers should then include a ‘white man’ descriptor, though that has never been done in practice, to justify the current employment of racial profiling. However, this would be ineffective in combating inequality as the damage of racial profiling far outweighs its benefits of it, as it endangers the liberty, dignity, and civil rights of those subjected to it.
The subjecting of minorities to racial profiling disproportionately benefits the majority, in the case of the Lippert-Rassmuseen study, it benefits white people over black people. He argues that in practice, a majority of crime against black people is committed by other black people, and so, racial profiling would benefit the victims. However, as most racial groups live in somewhat segregated neighborhoods, it is more likely that each group would commit crimes against their racial group.
Racial profiling becomes practically obsolete and only punishes the targeted minority, which signals the failure of a system of justice. It is a tactic that falls short not only in real scenarios and cases but under the scrutiny of philosophical analysis as well. At its core, it defies much of what is considered moral by society and is the beginning of severe injustices and inequalities.
Gordon, T. M. (2016). Racial profiling and moral responsibility for racialized crime (Master’s thesis, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario). Web.
Lever, A. (2017). Racial profiling and the political philosophy of race. In N. Zack (Ed.), Oxford handbook of the philosophy of race (pp. 425-429). Oxford, Great Britain: Oxford University Press.
Nadal, K. L., Davidoff, K. C., Allicock, N., Serpe, C. R., & Erazo, T. (2017). Perceptions of police, racial profiling, and psychological outcomes: A mixed methodological study. Journal of Social Issues, 73(4), 808-830. Web.
Zack, N. (2017). The Oxford handbook of philosophy and race. Oxford, Great Britain: Oxford University Press.