Police strategy of racial profiling needs to stop, encourages racism among citizens in society

Bryan Eberly and Bryan Eberly

I watched a video the other day on YouTube titled “Police Detain Man for Walking With Hands In Pockets While it Snows On Thanksgiving.”

Though the title is misleading [the man was not detained], it is mostly self-explanatory. A man walking in a Pontiac, Michigan, neighborhood with his hands in his pockets is stopped by a cop who proceeds to question him.

The reason?

“Walking down the street and making people nervous,” according to the police officer.

No other reason is given.

Though the video is only about 46 seconds long, it provides an excellent example of the sort of paranoid police work which has become the hallmark of America’s current security-minded state. That is, racial profiling.

Singling out an individual from a particular race for the sake of crime prevention. As the interrogated man suggests in the video, how many other people in Pontiac had their hands in their pockets that day?

The cop is by no means going to stop and question everyone he sees with their hands in their pockets, so why did he stop this man?

Because he is young, male, black and walking in a nice neighborhood. He provides an accepted definition of suspicion and potential danger, because it has been accepted that individuals can be marked by the stereotypes of whatever group they belong to.

This is, of course, a very harmful mindset. It’s also illogical and ridiculous. It is the mindset that all young black men pose a danger and therefore, it is right to single one out for questioning.

Irrational collective reasoning at best, racist phobia at worst.

To be fair, some might suggest that it isn’t the cop’s job to question whether or not he is profiling. After all, it is the cop’s duty to respond to calls.

Those who reported the man were the ones doing the racial profiling and the cop was merely following up on the report to ensure there was no wrongdoing.

While this is a fair assessment and accurate synopsis of a police officer’s responsibilities, it is still wrong for the cop to have stopped and questioned the man. The man is not committing a crime.

All the cop is doing by acting on the report is condoning and encouraging the racist attitude of the call. By following through, the cop is demonstrating that the paranoia is justified and legitimate.

The best thing he could have done was drive by, glance to see if the man was up to no good and, seeing that he wasn’t, the cop ought to have continued driving.

Racial profiling must stop. The benefit of crime prevention cannot come at the cost of targeting and scrutinizing individuals of any particular group simply because of their skin color.

All this does is prioritize one person’s security over another’s, while legitimizing bigotry and fear based on stereotypes.

One’s security is never worth the sacrifice of another’s and irrational phobias do not excuse classifying people as undesirable for nothing more than their skin colors.

Stopping, questioning and apprehending individuals should occur for one reason and one reason only: a crime has been committed and evidence is strong enough to assign blame.

Not because a young black man has his hands in his pockets.