Racial profiling threatens to affect 87 million people in the United States, according to Amnesty International USA.
Sept. 15, 2004
By Shanta Bryant Gyan*
(UMNS) — A report that 32 million people have been victims of racial
profiling practices since September 2001 should move United Methodist
churches to speak out on injustices against racial and religious
minorities, according to two denomination leaders.
unlawful use of race in police, immigration, and airport security
procedures has expanded since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on
America, and threatens to affect an estimated 87 million people in the
United States, according to the report by Amnesty International USA. The
report, “Threat and Humiliation: Racial Profiling, Domestic Security
and Human Rights in the United States,” was released at a press
conference Sept. 13 at the National Press Club.
Rev. Chester Jones, top staff executive of the United Methodist
Commission on Religion and Race, said the sheer number of people
reporting that they’ve been racially profiled “is out of control for any
“The church should weep over the national use of racial profiling against such a large population of the nation,” Jones said.
acknowledging law enforcement’s need to protect national security, he
stressed that individuals should not be unlawfully stopped and searched
because their appearance is different from the mainstream population.
The Rev. Chester R. Jones
The report from
such a highly respected human rights group should give all Americans
pause, said Jim Winkler, top staff executive of the United Methodist
Board of Church and Society in Washington.
the board, the denomination is committed to protecting civil rights and
civil liberties, he said. “Each local church should also be actively
engaged in guarding the freedom and dignity of every person in the
to Amnesty International, law enforcement authorities’ use of race,
ethnicity and religion for unlawful stops and searches undermines
national security. The report was based on a series of
consultations and public hearings across the United States and a
yearlong analysis of law enforcement profiling practices.
profiling blinds law enforcement to real criminal threats and creates a
hole in the national security net large enough to drive a truck
through,” said William F. Schulz, executive director of Amnesty
the federal and state governments end this pernicious practice,” he
said, “the frightening reality is that with terrorist acts on the rise,
that truck may be loaded with explosives and the driver anyone but a
Muslim or person of Middle Eastern descent. We are all at
profiling has the potential to allow people such as suspected al-Qaida
members John Walker Lindh, who is white, and Richard Reid, who is
British, to elude authorities, while law enforcement authorities are
searching for people of Middle Eastern origin, the report said.
Racial and ethnic minorities are frequently profiled during routine tasks, according to the report.
our research, we collected testimony from Native Americans who were
profiled going to and from religious ceremonies, Hispanics who were
profiled while in the sanctity of their homes, African Americans who
were profiled walking down the street, and a Boy Scout, who happens to
be Muslim, constantly being subjected to airport searches,” said
Benjamin Todd Jealous, director of Amnesty International USA’s Domestic
Human Rights Program.
Winkler said, “we know there are racial minority staff of the General
Board of Church and Society who receive more scrutiny and profiling
daily as they approach checkpoints set up near the Capitol and the
United Methodist Building. This is wrong, and it is unfair.”
recent poll, cosponsored by Amnesty International, showed that 45 and
46 percent of Arab and Muslim Americans believe the Department of
Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of Justice use racial
profiling to screen people for security purposes.
46 states do not ban religious profiling, the report stated.
Additionally, 35 states allow pedestrian “stop and frisk” searches, and
only six of the 15 that ban such searches use a definition of racial
profiling that can be enforced, it said.
Jones said church leaders, policymakers and community leaders must work together to end racial profiling.
should be able to speak out and teach people what they don’t know,” he
said, noting the church’s experience with racism and justice issues.
“It’s not right to make ourselves safe by putting half of the population
International is launching a public education campaign to support a
comprehensive federal ban on race-focused law enforcement practices. The
proposed legislation, End Racial Profiling Act of 2004 (H.R. 3847 and S
2132), has 140 bipartisan cosponsors.
*Gyan is a freelance writer in the Washington area.
News media contact: Tim Tanton, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.