We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is Racial Profiling?

Tricia Christensen
By
Updated May 16, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGeek is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGeek, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Racial profiling is the consideration of race early on in criminal investigations. If a member of a race is considered more likely to be involved in criminal behavior due to his race, he may be more often suspected of committing crimes, even when no evidence exists to justify this supposition. One of the most common cases of racial profiling in places like the US is the term, “driving while black” or DWB. In this instance, a person of African American descent may be subject to more scrutiny by police officers purely based on race. Innocent people who are pulled over by cops, for no other reason than because they are black are said to have committed the “DWB crime.”

In many countries, racial profiling is illegal. This doesn’t mean it’s nonexistent. There are numerous incidences of people of certain racial or ethnic groups being automatically suspected of crimes based on race. Unfortunately, racial profiling often contains false assumptions about people of races or ethnic groups. It might be assumed that African Americans are more likely to be drug users, which to a police officer might justify stopping more black drivers. Actually, this assumption is false, and there are many more Caucasian drug users than African Americans.

Another assumption directed at certain ethnic groups includes the fear that Arab Americans are more likely to be terrorists. Since 9/11, heightened fear about another terrorist attack has led to some law enforcement officials and organizations using Arab ethnicity to rule in the possibility that someone might be a terrorist. The fact that most Arab Americans are not terrorists makes this type of racial profiling suspect.

The trouble with racial profiling as a whole is that even if a racial or ethnic group is more likely to be involved in certain crimes, most justice systems are based on the rights of the individual. An individual cannot be considered suspicious simply because of race or ethnicity, and the legal system in places like the US depends upon gathering proof in order to convict someone of a crime. Racial or ethnic identity is not proof of criminal behavior, and shouldn’t be considered as a factor in those suspected of crimes. Some believe racial profiling is merely an extension of old racist and ethnocentric behavior that exists in law enforcement and justice agencies.

There are some people who argue that certain types of racial profiling makes sense. When investigators try to find a person suspected of a crime, they may try to identify race of that person in order to narrow down an investigation. Serial killers, for instance, are predominantly Caucasian males, and knowing this might help eliminate suspects. On the other hand, attachment to any racial stereotype may eliminate suspects who aren’t “typically” suspected of certain crimes. This might lead to investigation of the wrong people or ruling out people who have committed crimes but don’t fit stereotypes.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon347483 — On Sep 07, 2013

If you don't like someone, there's no need to stay with him or her. It's simple.

By anon314478 — On Jan 18, 2013

Racial profiling is a way people can say this race is better than that race when we are all equal.

By anon151057 — On Feb 09, 2011

@anon91521: There are two types of racial profiling: Soft profiling and hard profiling. Soft profiling is when police used evidence they gather from witnesses to narrow down possible suspects. The example of the black robber you used is an example of soft profiling.

Hard profiling, however, is illegal. Hard profiling is accusing someone of a crime solely based on their race without any evidence.

By anon91521 — On Jun 22, 2010

This article is okay but can't encompass the complexities of this issue. It is politically correct to say that racial profiling is bad. But in the real world profiling occurs everyday and is an effective tool -- even racial profiling.

What I mean by that is, if a bank robbery were to occur committed by a black person, police use that information and look for black suspects, not white ones. That, in effect, is racial profiling. Is that a bad thing or is it merely common sense?

Profiling or racial profiling is only negative when used oppressively against a group of people based on misconceptions.

By anon83902 — On May 12, 2010

who wrote this?

By anon83867 — On May 12, 2010

Behaviors that are typically associated with certain ethnicity can be profiled in order to establish a criminal profile, such as the typically black behavior of extending a fist to touch another fist instead of shaking hands.

Is is racist to seek a criminal suspect based upon a common ethnic, or racial, custom? If more blacks than whites, or Hispanics than Middle Eastern people portray certain characteristics that are racially distinguishable, then why can't these behaviors be used to apprehend and arrest perpetrators of crimes?

Racial profiling involves behaviors associated with race, not skin colors.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia...
Learn more
WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.