American History : Racism, Discrimination, and Prejudice

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Updated: Aug 21, 2023
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Throughout America’s history, racial profiling has continued to plague this country. Racial profiling refers to any actions initiated based on the erroneous presumption that individuals from a particular group are more likely to engage in illegal activity than people from other groups (Pg. 3.6). Many have questioned whether actions against specific minorities have changed over time, or whether just the issues of discriminatory practices differ. But the central problem stays the same. Given America’s long history of racism, discrimination, and prejudice, many would argue that certain minority groups are still being pursued and targeted through legal means such as racial profiling, as they have been throughout American history.

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Racial profiling has been a constant battle, as this societal disease is deeply rooted in the country. From a functionalist perspective, racial profiling can be viewed as the harmonious, interdependent parts of societal order and stability that keep society together. Meanwhile, the conflict perspective asserts that racial profiling may be an influential and permanent feature of life, in terms of its distribution of power and social change. On one hand, some may argue that racial profiling is necessary for societal safety. For example, many Americans believe that racial profiling is acceptable when used for national security, such as when a person is stopped at an airport checkpoint to rule out possible drug smuggling or any other illegal criminal activity.

However, others would argue that such profiling is often based on discriminatory practices, as people are essentially being stopped due to their racial background. This “categorical knowing” based on stereotypes of people is often merely based on perception or belief, whether visually or verbally, which leads to racial categorization of entire groups of people and ultimately to racial profiling. Overall, any form of racial profiling is harmful and immoral because it perpetuates negative racial stereotypes.

According to research, the cognitive, emotional, and action-oriented levels of prejudice surrounding racial profiling have promoted negative stereotypes about minority groups. Although these ideologies differ, such selective perception has, for the most part, proved problematic and damaging to society. Given recent controversy surrounding institutional discrimination—which some suggest is directly linked to racial profiling among minorities, particularly black Americans—people of all races have begun to demand change and oppose “ethnoviolence” by the police, including accountability at all levels of government.

It is important to note that the social stratification of cultural determinism often poses another racial barrier, having influenced racial profiling. People from less powerful out-groups, who generally have fewer resources and prestige, are expected to adopt the social and cultural norms of the dominant group. For example, a person from a lower-class family may feel expected to conform to middle-class values and standards. This only perpetuates racial profiling and negative stereotypes towards minorities. And importantly, ethnocentrism from the dominant group can exacerbate the misunderstanding and negative outcomes associated with racial profiling.

In conclusion, throughout American history, racism, discrimination, and prejudice have been closely linked to racial profiling. This may continue to exist until we, as a people, eliminate these societally-rooted diseases from our own attitudes. This discriminatory practice has proven to be a constant injustice that has contaminated our society. Lastly, racial profiling, in any facet of society, will prove detrimental to our development and well-being as a society.

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American History : Racism, Discrimination, and Prejudice. (2021, Apr 05). Retrieved from