Fifty years after Martin Luther King made his famous speech, the dream for Americans to be judged by character rather than skin color still seems to be light-years away from becoming reality.
The line between “the suspect is a black male” and “black males are suspect” remains dangerously thin. As seen with Trayvon Martin and the eventual acquittal of his killer George Zimmerman, the line between simple profiling and overt racism can have a costly price, especially for blacks.
Racial profiling by law enforcement is still one of the biggest civil rights issues in the U.S.. One of the most important reasons racial profiling needs to be opposed is because the government has already inadvertently legitimized the practice through various forms of media exposed to the general public.
In the summer of 2013, guitarist Ted Nugent suggested on actor Nick Cannon’s podcast that black Americans should be profiled in the same manner different breeds of dogs are labeled dangerous. Nugent claimed, “If a Dalmatian has been biting the children in the neighborhood, I think we’re going to look for a black-and-white dog.”
He added, “Over and over again, I watch the news, and here’s a rape, and here’s a burglary and here’s a murder in Chicago. Twenty-nine shot—29 blacks shot by 29 blacks. At some point, you’ve gotta be afraid of black-and-white dogs if the Dalmatian is doing the biting.”
In a separate interview, Nugent “joked” he would not mind shooting residents of Los Angeles’ South Central neighborhood with a machine gun from a helicopter. Not only is it distasteful to compare human beings to dogs, but escalating a joke to something that could end in violence is inexcusable. The danger of needless violence and death against specific groups is the reason why racial profiling needs to end.
Racial profiling has resulted in a divide that may never be rectified. The best example can be seen in the Florida neighborhood watchman who felt empowered to confront, and ultimately kill, an unarmed black teenager and was found without guilt. If judging people by the color of their skin is deemed acceptable by the law, the practice becomes endorsed for others to do as well.
There will always be pockets of people who will judge others because they fear what they do not understand. However, this is not an excuse to judge a book by its cover, especially when it comes to race, gender or any other arbitrary, superficial characteristic.
Americans must hold each other accountable for racist ideas that no longer have a place in the modern world. The injustices of racial profiling are not talked about enough in the U.S., and the lack of awareness is costing more innocent lives by the day. Unfortunately, King’s 1963 March on Washington and subsequent call for Americans to be judged on character rather than race is being undermined by the continued enforcement of stereotypes.