The Rights Working Group, conveners of the “Face the Truth Campaign,” released a report on September 30 which highlights racial profiling in its many forms – from people of Middle Eastern decent, post 9-11, to decades of profiling of African Americans under the war on drugs.
The report found that the patchwork of laws dealing with racial profiling have created a system that is too burdensome for victims of profiling to navigate. Faces of Racial Profiling: A report from communities across the United States also highlights the voice of people who suffered from racial profiling by featuring testimonies from the “Face the Truth” hearings. The report can be found at http://www.rightsworkinggroup.org/sites/default/files/rwg-report-web.pdf
The Drug Policy Alliance is a member of the group and is highlighting the racial profiling that results from the war on drugs.
Despite similar drug use rates, people of color are stopped, searched, arrested, prosecuted and eventually incarcerated at 13 times the rates of whites. African Americans and Latinos also are typically sentenced to longer jail and prison terms than white counterparts convicted of identical offenses.
“The practice of racial profiling must end,” said Jasmine L. Tyler, deputy director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. “Racial profiling is the first step in a racist drug war that begins with people of color being disproportionately targeted by law enforcement and ends with them receiving longer sentences than whites convicted of similar offenses.”
Until recently, crack cocaine offenders at the federal level were sentenced 100 times more harshly than powder cocaine offenders, despite the pharmacological similarity between the two substances. Due, in part, to racial profiling, African Americans make up four-fifths of those sentenced for crack cocaine when they only make up one-third of users. African Americans were, therefore, being sentenced at a disproportionate rate, to unjustly long sentences. As a result of the recent change in law, which shows progress, but not justice, federal crack cocaine offenders are now sentenced only 18 times more harshly than powder cocaine offenders.
Even though whites and people of color use drugs at similar rates, people of color are many times more likely than whites to be arrested and imprisoned for their usage. In New York 9 out of 10 marijuana arrests are of African Americans or Latinos; in California, African Americans make up 20% of those arrested for marijuana but only 7% of the general population. The United States Congress has an opportunity to set standards of practice by passing the End Racial Profiling Act, introduced by Rep. John Conyers, chair of the House Judiciary Committee.
“We see racial disparities in crack cocaine and marijuana arrests alike,” said Tyler. “Across the country, African Americans, because of racial profiling, bear the brunt of marijuana prohibition. Rights Working Group ‘s report will educate legislators on the Hill, in city councils, and state houses on best practices and eliminating racial profiling.”