FOR statement to U.S. Senate on racial profiling

04/18/12, Fellowship of Reconciliation

This week dozens of U.S. human rights organizations are taking action as part of National End Racial Profiling Advocacy Week. Together we are calling on Congress to support the End Racial Profiling Act of 2011. The Fellowship of Reconciliation and dozens of organizations sent letters to the Senate and House of Representatives this week asking for members to cosponsor that legislation; see the text of those letters in PDF documents that can be downloaded at the base of this message.

Please join us in this important effort. Click here to find ways you can participate, including by writing letters to the editor for your local media.

Yesterday, a statement on racial profiling prepared by FOR was delivered as testimony to a U.S. Senate hearing on this important human rights issue. The statement is provided in full below.

STATEMENT OF

Mark C. Johnson, Executive Director

Fellowship of Reconciliation, USA

Hearing on Ending Racial Profiling in America

SENATE COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY

SUBCOMMITTEE ON THE CONSTITUTION, CIVIL RIGHTS AND HUMAN RIGHTS

UNITED STATES SENATE

APRIL 17, 2012

Chairman Durbin, Ranking Member Graham, and members of the Subcommittee:  I am honored to submit this testimony for the record on behalf of the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR-USA) regarding today’s hearing on racial profiling.  For nearly a century FOR has worked passionately for racial and economic justice as the oldest interfaith peace and justice organization in the United States.  We are committed to active nonviolence as a transforming way of life and as a means of radical change.

We thank you for holding this critical and timely hearing on racial profiling and the End Racial Profiling Act.  FOR-USA is particularly concerned about many policies and programs at the national, state, and local level which encourage or incentivize discriminatory law enforcement practices such as racial profiling. We believe that these practices are counterproductive, waste public resources and violate the civil and human rights of persons living in the United States.

Policies of racial and religious profiling are discriminatory ways of upholding the imploding economic system that fuels class warfare, wars between religions, fascism, and the economic whirlwind that the United States, European Union, and our allies face today.  We are especially alarmed by the ways in which our members and neighbors are used as targets of hateful systemic practices and rhetoric because they are of African descent, Arab descent, South Asian, or Muslim, or simply perceived as such.

Racial and religious profiling have existed since the inception of the United States and, as former Attorney General John Ashcroft stated, using race as a proxy for potential criminal or dangerous behavior is unconstitutional.  Racial profiling eviscerates the trust necessary for members of law enforcement to do their jobs.  It is a violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the constitution and a dehumanizing practice for all parties involved.

Racial Profiling in Our Communities

Probable cause is commonly cited when people of African descent are illegally searched while walking or driving, or even while standing on their front steps.  Latinos are increasingly questioned and unjustifiably detained in immigration roundups and street patrols.  Muslims face consistent attacks at airports, mosques, work, and even schools.  Not only does racial profiling have a severe economic impact on the targeted communities and government spending, but it also feeds into the factually inaccurate premise that certain ethnic and religious groups have a greater propensity to commit a crime.  In reality, African Americans, Latinos, South Asians, and Muslims are subject to heavier policing, thereby accounting for a disproportionate rate of searches and arrests when compared to white counterparts who engage in the same level of suspected activity.  The discriminatory practice of racial profiling has blinded law enforcement and hindered their ability to fulfill their sworn responsibility and ensure equal protections under the law.  Racial profiling is a corrosive cycle of violence and corrupts the Constitution and the justice system.

Furthermore, the premise of racial and religious profiling has fueled racist vigilantism, as seen in the recent conflict over the establishment of a mosque near ground zero in New York as well as justification by Sheriff Arpaio in Arizona when he saw fit to arm local residents in an effort to patrol the borders.  It is the same premise that allowed nearly 50 days between when George Zimmerman decided that Trayvon Martin was suspicious, followed, and murdered him, and charges being brought against Zimmerman for that violent action.  Gender also plays a key role in the applications of racial and religious profiling.  It is the deciding factor in the wrongful imprisonment of Chrishaun “CeCe” McDonald, a young African American transgender woman who defended herself in Minneapolis after being attacked because of her gender and race.  The profiling of CeCe McDonald and the murders of Trayvon Martin, Rekia Boyd in Chicago, and more than 30 known cases of African-American victims of State-sanctioned or justified murder since January 2012 are not isolated incidences.  These attacks surface a stark public display of the historic pattern and fatal results of racial profiling and the disproportionate effects on the youngest members of society.

Racial profiling fills U.S. citizens with a sense of terrorism at the same time that it seeks to protect citizens of other nations from this problem via the so-called War on Terrorism.  With policies and plans such as the End Racial Profiling Act and the Durban Declaration and Plan of Action, the United States has a chance to affect foreign policy and democracy around the world by being leaders at home.  Failure to end racial profiling in the United States is a blatant statement of hypocrisy and further undermines our nation’s voice in the world market.

As members of the human family and residents of the United States, we live the affects of racial profiling and understand that no one is exempt from destructive, deceptive, and unjust policies enacted on another.  We maintain a revolutionary vision of a beloved community where differences are respected, conflicts are addressed nonviolently, oppressive structures are dismantled, and where people live in harmony with the earth, nurtured by diverse spiritual traditions that foster compassion, solidarity, and reconciliation.

Conclusion

The practice of racial profiling by federal, state, and local law enforcement has resulted in a heightened fear of law enforcement in our community, as in many other communities of color throughout the United States.

The Fellowship of Reconciliation is heartened by the Subcommittee’s leadership in holding this hearing and we are grateful for the opportunity to present our position on the unjust, ineffective and counterproductive practice of racial profiling. We urge the Committee to move swiftly and take concrete actions to prohibit racial profiling at the federal, state and local level:

  • Congress should pass the “End Racial Profiling Act (S.1670)” and institute a federal ban on profiling based on race, religion, ethnicity, and national origin at the federal, state, and local levels.
  • The Subcommittee should urge the Department of Justice to amend its 2003 Guidance Regarding the Use of Race by Federal Law Enforcement Agencies to apply to profiling based on religion and national origin, remove national and border security loopholes, cover law enforcement surveillance activities, apply to state and local law enforcement agencies acting in partnership with federal agencies or receiving federal funds, and make the guidance enforceable.

Thank you again for this opportunity to express the views of the Fellowship of Reconciliation. We welcome the opportunity for further dialogue and discussion about these important issues.

Posted on April 19, 2012, in Press coverage. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on FOR statement to U.S. Senate on racial profiling.

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