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Making Civics Real Workshop 7: Controversial Public Policy Issues  
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Workshop 7

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Student Perspectives: Racial profiling

Becky: When we first started this [lesson], I didn’t really know a whole lot about racial profiling. I have not really been directly affected by it. It’s not something that I think about all the time. So I didn’t really have a whole lot of opinions. On the news I’ve heard suspects say they were pulled over just simply because of their race. Now that I’ve started researching and discussing it, I find that in some instances, the cops are justifying [using racial profiling]. In others, it totally seems wrong. If they pull people over simply because of their race, that’s not right. I don’t agree with that at all. Some people are saying the people who are getting pulled over are more likely to be of a certain race, whatever it may be. To me, that still doesn’t really even seem right. If you’re going to pull someone over for speeding, you should pull everyone over for speeding. You can’t pick and choose whom you’re going to pull over for speeding. It should be pretty much even. But then again, I see the police’s point of view. They [say] if you’re more likely to commit a crime because of this, and they have a profile, and the profile happens to involve race, that kind of makes sense if they’re going to be cutting down on crime. So it’s kind of a hard one. I want to see crime go down, but yet people have their rights and they have a right not to be pulled over simply because of their race. It was really interesting to see how people felt. It seemed like the students, and me included when it affected me personally, didn’t really like racial profiling, but when it all of a sudden dealt with terrorism, people were like, “Oh, it’s okay if we’re saving our country.”

Joseph: At first, it was kind of weird because I didn’t have any views on racial profiling. I’m still uncertain. I guess I lean more towards partial racial profiling, like they can use it some of the time in certain areas. If there are high crime areas, they can use racial profiling in that area to find suspects. But I don’t think it should be used all of the time. Racial profiling kind of does deprive you of liberty. You shouldn’t be discriminated against because of the color of your skin.

The papers she presented us to review the night before seemed biased towards racial profiling [being] overused. So it’s easier to support that it shouldn’t be used because there were so many statistics that show that it’s [used] a lot more in Minnesota than anywhere in the country. But there were other facts supporting the other side that show that there are computers that police officers use to show high crime areas. If the minority is the majority of the people in that area, then obviously it’s going to show that those are the majority of the people that are going to get pulled over.

Rayad: I’ve been pulled over a few times. One time I did wonder about it. I [was] dating a girl. She lived in a more affluent neighborhood, in a suburb. It was later at night. I was driving a really nice car. It was my mom’s car. The officer asked me the 20-question bit. “What are you doing in this? You live in Coon Rapids. What are you doing in North Oaks at this time of night? Do you know anyone here?” Eventually, I was getting frustrated. I got sick of the 20 questions and I asked him, “If you don’t mind me asking, what did I do wrong? Why did you pull me over?” He didn’t give me any reason for pulling me over. He let me go. Couldn’t say I was speeding, no taillight out, wasn’t swerving. I was just in this nice neighborhood, where it didn’t look like I belonged. You question it once in a while. Of course, the police are there to protect the community. So there’s a balance somewhere, and I guess I didn’t take it personally.

Since September 11, 2001, it’s been a very big issue as to how far you go before you can infringe on people’s individual rights. Every citizen has rights, and the question of national security and human rights has been coming up. Personally, I haven’t seen too much of a difference. I’m kind of nervous about flying because I’m wondering how things are going to go. My dad flew to New York, and he got some looks when he was walking onto the airplane. They searched him very carefully, but I guess that’s what you’re going to have to deal with. One way or another, we need to have peace of mind. We need to live in a secure, safe place for everyone. If the only way to accomplish that is to take some extra precautions, that’s fine, but we can’t step over those lines. I guess we have to put faith in our legislature to make sure that the checks and balances of government are in place properly so that they’ll protect our rights. That’s about all you can do.

Renee: Reading through the articles, I found it really disturbing, not so much for the Caucasian race, but for the minority races, because the ratio of blacks to whites for being pulled over in Minneapolis [was 19 to 1]. I didn’t realize how big of a problem it was. I’m not a racist person, but it’s really scary for me to go down [to Lake Street] just to see all the different people that are down there because I’ve never been exposed to it. In Champlin, you don’t really have a whole lot of different minorities. We debated whether or not racial profiling was okay and we came to the consensus as a group that it was okay in some circumstances but in most, it was not okay because it hurts a lot of people if you pull them over and they’re innocent.

We did have a minority in our group. She had something to say because I think that people don’t really look at it in a different way unless it’s directed toward them. Like we all totally disagreed with being pulled over for being young, but being pulled over because you’re from the Middle East right now was okay. We found that that was very disturbing because nobody really looks at it unless it affects him or her. We had to look at it as if it was affecting us--as if we were one of them--and we found that it would be a big problem because it hurts a lot of people.

We said that in a major time of crisis, profiling was okay. Right now I think that the whole U.S. is really biased towards the Middle East and we don’t like them because of the whole September 11, 2001, thing. We decided that during times of crisis, which this would be considered, they have the right to profile Middle Eastern people to see if they were part of the terrorist attacks. We also said that during a non-time of crisis you shouldn’t be able to do that, and that airports and international borders shouldn’t have any racial profiling. You should check everyone for anything, no matter how old you are or what race you are, what ethnic background you have. In high traffic areas, they should have partial profiling, not racial, but partial with probable cause because unless they have probable cause, they should not be able to pull anybody over or stop anybody based on their race or background. That’s pretty much what we came to as a group.

Robin: I’ve never really experienced [racial profiling] myself, so I’m not that familiar with it, but from what we’ve discussed in class, it seems like, for people who are minorities, it can be a problem. I don’t really agree with it in general. I mean, if a police officer or someone is basing his or her actions completely on someone’s race and has no other merit, then I think it’s wrong.

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