Thursday, May 13, 2010

Racial Profiling is Bad Policy


By Pramila Jayapal

As the debate around the recently passed Arizona immigration law clearly demonstrates, racial and religious profiling remains a real and urgent problem in the United States.

Washington state isn't immune to the scourge of this discriminatory behavior by law-enforcement officials. This past October, we discovered that FBI agents, instead of collecting information only about people with direct links to national security threats, scrutinized Somali communities across the nation, including those in Seattle. Within 150 miles of our northern border, in counties such as Skagit, Snohomish and Whatcom, Latino, Arab and Muslim communities face an everyday threat of profiling from both border patrol agents and Immigration Control Enforcement officials. And right here in Seattle, we continue to see the racial disparities that disproportionately affect African-Americans, Asians and other people of color.

Although racial profiling has been unfairly familiar to African-Americans and others for decades, mainstream America has only in the recent decades started to acknowledge the issue. Referred to as "driving while black or brown," racial profiling surfaced in popular culture long before law enforcement conceded the practice.

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