Category Archives: Labeling

Racial Profiling

I was enjoying time with my friends playing video games. Before I knew it, hours had passed by. The only reason I noticed how long I had been playing was because the phone rang and it was my mom. “Michael, where is the Hummer” asked my mom. “Parked outside my friend’s house,” I responded. “No it isn’t. It has been towed!” Apparently, while I was visiting my friend, who lived in a predominantly white neighborhood, a neighbor didn’t recognize who I was and called the police to complain about an unknown black guy who had parked his vehicle outside her home. Based upon that complaint, the police towed my mother’s legally parked car. Besides this particular incidence, I’ve been pulled over multiple times for no reason and my car has been searched for drugs without any record of any police report to support that I was ever pulled over. I have also been stopped and patted down while walking down the street to the corner store down from my house. For those that do not look like me, a young black man, it may be hard to believe that racial profiling occurs but because of what I have experienced at such a young age, I know that it does occur and it occurs more often than people think. One police officer even had the nerve to tell me, “I’ve seen you drive a Cutlass, a Camaro, a Hummer and now a Corvette, so I felt the need to pull you over.” There have been so many recent examples of needless deaths of young black men due to over excessive force of police officers and there is reason for concern.

Racial profiling is defined as the pattern of categorizing people and predicting behavior such as the probability of engaging in illegal activity based upon race or ethnicity. The American Civil Liberties Union’s website stated that racial profiling occurs every day, in cities and towns across the country and results in humiliating interrogations, searches and even police brutality leading to death.

Trayvon Martin in Florida and Michael Brown in Missouri are recent examples of controversy where some form of racial profiling may have been used to track or approach the now deceased. As a young black man, I am concerned that shooting to kill may be the first thought process instead of considering other alternatives. There are multiple videos on the internet that support police officers or those acting in the name of the law who have abused their authority. I am not saying that all police officers are bad or that all young black men are innocent but stealing should not equate to death and other forms of restraint such as tear gas, or wounding to prevent mobility could be used instead of blatantly killing.

My uncle was driving in Parma, MI and was pulled over by a state trooper because there was a domestic fight between a black man and white woman. The black guy left the house (by foot) running south. My uncle was driving in a car on the north side of Parma near the highway. So….why was he pulled over? The judge could not justify the state trooper’s reasoning either, which is why my uncle won a case of discrimination against the state trooper.

The problems we have when racial profiling occurs are that innocent individuals are labeled and targeted. Racial profiling isn’t constitutional or fair. No one should be pointed out of a group because of their skin tone or cultural background. Everyone should have a fair and equal opportunity to live from day to day without fear of being arrested, beat to death or killed because a cop “thought” he or she was suspicious.

The solution to ending racial profiling should start with the law leading by example and not being the primary individuals who are racial profiling. The individuals who uphold the law shouldn’t be the ones who are put above the principles of the law either. Every individual should be held accountable for their actions, no matter their position in society or what occupation they hold. Anytime something suspect occurs, authority should investigate and execute through a fair trial.

How would you feel if you were in the store with the intent to find an item that you needed and the store owner or worker was suspiciously watching your every move or attempted to secretly follow you as you made your way through the store?   Would you feel like you needed to support their business by spending your hard earned money there? Personally, I would leave the store and not patronize the store anymore. I would likely share my unpleasant experience with others as well. The same should occur with situations of racial profiling. People need to speak out and band together to hold these authority figures accountable for illegally labeling young black men or anyone for that matter. People must continue to demand that anytime this happens something be done and ultimately, even if man fails to bring resolution, justice will prevail in God’s eyes.

Below are several links to videos that identify evidence of racial profiling and police

brutality:

Racial profiling experiment

Shopping while black in Alabama

Racial profiling of black driver

Police officer beat wheelchair bound person

Cop tells driver, “you’re black.”

How did you feel as you watched the videos? Do you believe that the police were in the wrong? Do you think that the “victim” could have handled the situation better and/or prevent what happened to them?

Below is a link to a video that expresses how fed up with the injustice of racial profiling and police brutality people are. The lyrics are a little pungent but it thoroughly outlines the frustration of how mothers, fathers, siblings, family and friends feel when they lose loved ones needlessly.  

Criminals with permission song/video

I don’t necessarily agree with everything (meaning all of the lyrics and/or use of profanity) in this song but I can feel the pain and I am truly concerned with the overall situation in the world today with racial profiling and police brutality. There is a trend especially with young black men being treated unfairly and killed without rationale.

In summary, racial profiling is real. It occurs every day and sometimes leads to police brutality. Parents of color have to make their children aware of this day-to-day situation to protect them from becoming victims. I have experienced racial profiling and I know many others who have as well. The examples of videos illustrate racial profiling as well as police brutality. I encourage all to continue to be aware and to speak up to promote that those who abuse power be punished for their actions.

— Michael

Social Class

The United States social class system is broken down into five classes; the upper class, lower class, middle class, working class and the poor. Social inequality is ever present with the vast differences between these classes.

There are endless examples of the differences between upper class and the other lower classes. Members of the upper class are able to live extravagantly, having the best of everything. They are able to take vacations, buy the most expensive houses, cars, clothes, etc.   They can afford medical care and prescriptions. Members of the lower classes simply do not have these same luxuries.  The members of the poor class are often faced with having to choose between prescriptions or food. They often don’t have cars or adequate housing. Vacations and higher education are dreams, not realities. Members of the poor are happy to have clothes that are often used. Members of the working class often live paycheck to paycheck which can result in overdue bills and late fees. They have little to no savings. Members of the upper middle class are comfortable. They are not rich, but they can live comfortably and easily afford the costs of living as well as living within their means.

According to the US Census Bureau, American Community Survey, in 2011, 32.1 percent of Americans were members of the working class (PRB.Org).

According to the US Census Bureau, American Community Survey, in 2011, 32.1 percent of Americans were members of the working class (PRB.Org).

The size of this class continues to grow. My family is a working class family. I can tell you from my own personal experiences that the everyday struggle is real. My husband and I both work, yet are struggling to make ends meet. The only extra spending we have is for our college classes. Housing, food for our family of four, utilities, insurance and gas literally takes everything we have. We are not able to save for higher education for our children. If something unexpected happens, such as having to have car repairs or having to replace our hot water heater, it sets us back for weeks, sometimes months. Extracurricular activities for our kids are considered a luxury.

Discrimination has always been present in our country. It is most often thought of as minorities being denied social participation or human rights. On employment applications, we see statements telling us they will not discriminate against one’s race, color, religion, sex or national origin. I think it can be argued that social class can be added to those statements. I believe members of all classes are stereotyped. For example, members of the poor class are assumed to be uneducated, lazy and sometimes unworthy. Members of the upper class are assumed to be educated, motivated and important.

I thought this was an accurate depiction of our social classes here in the United States.

I thought this was an accurate depiction of our social classes here in the United States.

Look at the differences here. Clearly the bottom of the picture is our two lower classes. Notice the difference in clothing, lighting and cleanliness. It’s all bare bones if you will. Then you have the upper middle class dressed nice and neat with smiles on their faces. The one guy has a laptop and a cool lamp. Then the upper level is posh. All decked out in gold, huge smiles on their faces, looking like ‘fat cats’. The folks climbing the ladder cannot be ignored either. They are both trying their best to climb to the top. And what about the man falling on the left? To me, this looks as though he tried to climb to the top, only to be knocked down. Perhaps this artist does not believe in social mobility, lol!

Upper class is in no way the majority group, but it is definitely the dominant group. It is the rich that make the rules for all. Members of the upper classes are allowed a great number of privileges. Oddly enough, celebrities get free clothes and jewelry as the designers see that as advertisement. Celebrities are the last folks needing free clothes! Members of the upper class typically have high credit scores so they receive lower interest rates on mortgages, insurance, loans and credit cards. These are just some of the privileges the dominant upper class group receives. There are countless others.

At the end of the day, we are all human. We all want to live a good life and to be able to provide for our families. Those of us that are parents worry about our kids. We all have bills that must be paid on time. We all love to be entertained. Despite having all of these things in common, our social class seems to define who we are as individuals. Our social class is a label, one that creates an unnecessary divide between us as humans.

–Kim

DEVIANCE

We have all seen them, “gangsters” walking around with saggy pants and baggy sweatshirts known for causing trouble and committing crime, or Goth’s with gaged ears and all black attire, known for being emotionally unstable and violent. These people are said to be deviant, with norms and values that differ from those of the greater society. These subcultures create their own norms and values that others see to be different, or deviant.

Norms are an established standard of behavior maintained by a society.  Norms can be formal, informal, folkways or mores. Formal norms are those that generally have been written down and specify strict punishment if violated. Laws are an example of formal norms. Informal norms are those that are understood but not necessarily recorded. Examples of informal norms include how one behaves in a college level classroom. Folkways are norms that govern everyday behavior but do not result in much concern if violated. Wearing acceptable clothing is an example of a folkway. Lastly, mores are norms that are seen as necessary to the welfare of society, and are based on what is right and wrong. Religious doctrines are an example of mores. Defying any of these norms can result in an individual being perceived as deviant. For an individual to conform is for him or her to go along with peers, acting in a similar manner. Just as one can conform to society, that is following social norms, one can also conform to a deviant group, acting in a way that is different from the rest of society.

Perhaps the most recognized deviant groups in society are criminals. Criminals can be individuals who commit crimes such as murder or assault, or small crimes such as income tax evasion or misinterpretation of advertisement. Whether the crime was a violent crime resulting in extreme punishment, or a small senseless one with little recognition, every move we make as humans has a sanction. Sanctions are tactics used by society to penalize or reward individuals for their behavior. Negative sanctions used for criminal activity, for example, include jail or prison sentencing, fines and community service. These sanctions are largely responsible for the “good behavior” of society, as individuals stray from behavior that could result in these negative sanctions. Positive sanctions are also part of keeping society under control, so to speak. These sanctions include praise or rewards for good behavior, such as a student being on the honor roll, or getting certificates for perfect attendance. Sanctions are a means of encouraging conformity to the standards of society, while also preventing individuals from becoming deviant.

All types of sanctions are a part of social control.  “We create norms to provide social order . . . we enforce them through social control – the techniques and strategies for preventing deviant human behavior in any society” (Witt 130). Social control can be exercised in families, by parents, in colleges, by teachers, or in government by the police or legislature. One example of social control in schools is the hidden curriculum. Just as sanctions teach individuals what is socially acceptable throughout life, the hidden curriculum is used in schools to teach children what behaviors are acceptable. For example, students learn to speak only when they are called on, and are taught how to socialize with authority figures in an acceptable way. These lessons are ones that will be critical throughout life, to conform to society.

Teachers are likely to have a life-long effect on their students. Not only do teachers demonstrate socially acceptable behavior to students, but they often label students as well. Labeling can both help and hurt a child while growing up. For example, if the teacher labels a student as dishonest at a young age, that child is likely to keep that label throughout his or her education. Labeling can also be seen as a sort of stereotyping. African Americans have been labeled as delinquents, bad kids or criminals for years. Labeling a group of people as bad, in this case, puts them at a disadvantage because they are more likely to accept that label.

Norms are more important in everyday life than most people know. Without norms, we would not know how to work together, how to work individually, or how to function as an entire community. Although there are disadvantages of having norms, such as having deviant individuals, norms are an absolute necessity of society.

 

Works Cited

Lunchcountersitin, . “Incarceration Rate per 100,000 Residents.” Chart. Bureau of Justice Statistics (2009). Web.

Maricopa CountyJail. Web. 23 Feb. 2013. <http://maricopacountyjail.net/&gt;.

Sackermann, Joern. Germany, Gothic People. Lightstalkers, Cologne. Web. 23 Feb. 2013.

Stylephotographs, . African Student Raising her Hand in University Class. 123RF. Web. 23 Feb. 2013.

Witt, Jon. SOC. 2012th ed. N.p.: McGraw Hill, 2012. Print.