Experiences with racial profiling

I have been contemplating what my next project should be, and I decided to go with something that I have personally experienced several times in my life. Growing up as a brown Mexican-American has not always been easy. Although my appearance and accent match my surroundings, I continually experience prejudice and profiling on a regular basis. My last few experiences occurred while traveling last year. I was able to explore 7 different countries, and nowhere on earth did I feel as pre-judged or experience profiling as I did in return to my home country, the United States. Security checkpoints “randomly” screened me well beyond the average, at times utilizing state of the art machines and thorough inspections of my belongings, to the point of removing everything from my suitcase and checking the liner inside. This entire time, I watch as countless people get permitted acceptance back into their country, while I wait and stand humiliated, treated like a guilty criminal. The demeanor of the security inspectors is frightening, who look at me with conviction. This did not occur once, or twice, but numerous times, all carried out by my own countrymen, in my own backyard. My girlfriend, who has traveled extensively herself, tells me that she has never had such a hard time getting back into the country as she has when she travels with me. Perhaps I fit a stereotype, perhaps drug smugglers and terrorists fit a certain criteria. But the question remains- do I not deserve the same treatment as everyone else? Is this not a “free” country, who broke down segregation many years ago?

For this assignment, I would like to get your feedback- have you experienced any form of prejudice or racial profiling by your country? If so, please post your experience. I will truly appreciate it. Thank You.


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4 Responses to Experiences with racial profiling

  1. This is an excellent project for people at WISR to take on. And it is shameful that you and others continue to be mistreated in such ways. In addition, to interviewing people about their own experiences, it might be worthwhile to ask them to share stories and what they know of the experiences of friends and relatives. Also, I suspect that the sometimes subtly, and as you point out, the sometimes not so subtle dynamics of racial profiling may differ depending on the “circumstances.” For example, comparing airport security, to police profiling, to even teachers “profiling” those whom they consider to be succcessful students, and many other circumstances. Concerns such as these are very much part of the mission of the Teaching Tolerance project of the Southern Poverty Law Center (for links to that project, go to the links section of my blog at johnbilorusky.wisrville.org).

  2. Taylor Fischer says:

    Alex, the brush fires while necessay to fight do take much of our time and energy while the forest fire rages on. What you have experienced is distasteful, it is however an opportunity to help us all see more clearly and put our individual experiences in historical perspective in order to be citizens. What is the ragging forest fire that gave birth to this brush fire?
    Or am I seeing this incorrectly and you are following Paulo’s pedagogy by using this issue as training ground for your understanding of self and in preparation?

    Which ever you have my support.

    John, while I have been a supporter of the Southern Povety Law center for over thirty years or so(I became a supporter of theirs during there successful klan fight years)
    No one I have spoken to regarding tolerance whats to be tolerated including me.

  3. Hi Alex,

    I’m so sorry to hear that, but not surprised at all. I remember when I traveled to Australia the stares and looks I got as I was pulled off to the side. It was interesting too, that I was also checked a couple of times at the U.S. Airports…was it my bald head that represented maybe African, not African American woman. Was it my strength and energy as an African American woman, that I’ve been told many times over that it sometimes probably intimidates people. There were no smiles, no hellos, no nothing. I thought for sure that I would be carted off to jail just based on how unfriendly they were. It seemed to just be the airport security though. Once I got left the airport everyone seemed friendly and loved the American accent. I think that although airport security is a serious thing, they could make it a little bit less intimidating and intrusive by smiling and being friendly while we go through this ugly process. If you’d like to interview me further for a formal private interview let me know…I have a lot more to share.

  4. Profile photo of wpoehner wpoehner says:

    Your post reminds me of growing up in Los Angeles and consistently detained by law enforcement. One night we were stopped three times and each time we were told to sit on the curve. Even later as a young adult I was asked to sit on the curve and I always thought this was normal. Until one day I was pulled over with my father, brother and his wife. It happen to be fathers day and we were spending family time together. The officer accused me of making an illegal U turn on empty industrial street. I took on the submissive role and didn’t argue, he ended up letting me go with a warning. He reminded me at least twice that he was doing me a favor. After driving away my sister in-law said, “I have never seen anyone degraded by law enforcement the way you just were”. My sister in-law is Caucasian and grew up in Yorba Linda, California. I am so use to being spoken to like a criminal from law enforcement that I just assume it’s normal. Turns out, not all people are spoken to this way and I’m a light skinned Latin brotha!
    Ps. I don’t think I can make the conference call tomorrow. I just realized I have some conflicting plans.. see you on the next one.

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