New York Law School

Archive for April, 2016

Consumer Racial Profiling: The Crime without Redress or Repercussions

America has a very long and documented history of racial profiling against people of color. Discriminatory practices like stop and frisk and poll taxes have been present in this country since the dawn of our government. Although the Civil Rights Act of 1964 aimed to outlaw these forms of discrimination, many of these practices simply morphed into much “subtler” versions of themselves. In particular, the unfair treatment of Blacks by law enforcement and the judicial system has been as present as ever. This continued stain of Black enslavement and repression is evidenced by disproportionately high arrest rates and stricter prison sentences for Blacks, as well as targeted efforts to vilify the Black population. Thanks to the efforts of President Barack Obama, Black Lives Matter, Social Media, and activists throughout the country, many of these issues are now being brought to the political mainstream, yet there still is much to be done in the fight against racial injustice. This fight is especially challenging in the realm of retail and private businesses. You see, just as police and judicial abuse against Blacks represents a legacy of Black legal inequality, Consumer Racial Profiling represents a legacy of public and societal inequality.

Consumer Racial Profiling (CRP) is the act of storeowners and/or their employees following, harassing, or ignoring individuals while they shop in their stores simply due to the shopper’s apparent race. While CRP affects people of all colors and backgrounds, it is Blacks that are most frequently targeted. In a 2004 Gallup poll, 65% of Black respondents reported widespread racial profiling when shopping in malls and stores. Hence why CRP is also known as “shopping while Black”, drawing on the similarities to “driving while Black”. These racially charged interactions often lead to Black people being publicly embarrassed due to unfounded accusations of stealing, being searched for goods that they did not steal, or even being wrongly detained or apprehended by police officers.

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