By: Paola Granado
On Tuesday, October 14 at 10:30 a.m. a press conference about racial profiling was held at the Chardón Building of the University of Puerto Rico – Mayagüez. The three panelists that attended were: Dr. Christopher Powers, professor of Comparative Literature at UPRM; Att. José Negrón, licensed attorney in Puerto Rico; and Brendan O’Boyle, student at UPRM.
The press conference began by introducing the panelists and by asking Dr. Christopher Powers: “why do you think racial profiling still takes place in the United States?” Powers responded, “it advocates for law and order which sees racial profiling as a legitimate tool to perform effective policing and on the other hand advocates for civil liberties and anti-racist who sees racial profiling as practice of racial discrimination.” Powers added that racial profiling still takes place because of the existence of racism and the legacy of segregation; it has become a technique for social domination and power.
Racial profiling is racist because it assumes there is a set of behaviors that are associated with somebody’s race. Racism is a product of historical institutions that feel the need to control the population. In Puerto Rico, the majority of victims that experience racial profiling are people who are not Puerto Rican or people who speak English. People from Dominican descent, people specifically from the Loíza town and people of lower socioeconomic status in general also experience racial profiling.
Racial profiling can lead to unfortunate scenarios where police forces may go to the extent of killing innocent people. Dr. Christopher Powers provided the example of a recent killing of a young, unarmed boy named Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Brown was violently shot four times and then killed by a final bullet in the head. Powers proceeded to describe the powerful response of the citizens of Ferguson. Powers argued that it’s possible and many times justified because in the United States, African American and Latino lives have less value and do not receive as much protection or security as White lives.
Brendan O’Boyle was asked about how students, should respond in society when confronted with racism. O’Boyle responded; “our role is to take what we have learned through our education and help to educate others”. Racism only exists because many people fail to recognize that we are all equal human beings. Biologically we share 99.9% of our genetic makeup with every other human and it is only .1% of our genetic makeup that actually differs.
O’Boyle believes that people do not take the time to educate others. Most students in college have been given the tools to expand their knowledge of the world by taking different classes, but students do not spend enough time explaining to their families and loved ones what they have learned. We are developing a more individual-focused culture rather than a global culture. The only way to remove the idea that race is a significant factor differentiating people from others is by providing education and expanding the concept of globalization.
Regarding these issues there are also evident examples around the world. The video “Viral Racism in Mexico” was utilized for the promotion of an anti-racism campaign. It tries to educate viewers that racism is not only seen in adults, but that it begins at a young age.
The video, which can be found at Youtube, presents different children having to choose between a black and white doll while an interviewer asks them several questions. Throughout the video most of the children referred to the black doll as bad and ugly.
Another example can be seen in Northern Ireland where racist attacks have increased and there has been more racial offences recorded by the police in the last five months than in the entire year. When racial offenses occur they are considered assault and when the person is prosecuted it is then up to a judge to declare a sentence by proving whether or not the actions were racist. Unfortunately, there are usually no witnesses available to declare what truly happened.