RacialProfiling in France
Racialprofiling is a form of discrimination by law enforcement officers onsome individuals based on factors such as race, religion, gender,ethnicity, skin color to name but a few (Rushing,par2). In other words, police officers use the factors mentionedearlier in deciding who to stop for either a routine checkup,investigation, arrest or even detention, even though the individualhas not portrayed any criminal behavior. Racial profiling among lawenforcement authorities has become a national issue in many of theWestern countries. In France, racial profiling by police officers hascaptured the headlines of various newspapers and generated hotdebates. According to (Christenson, 6), France is known for itshistorical racial profiling perpetrated by police officers, who donot only discriminate against the blacks but also anyone with aMuslim appearance.
“Racialprofiling either based on religion, ethnicity or national origincontinues to be a big challenge for our nation despite theconstitutional assurance of equal treatment under the law.”(Natarajan, par4).
Itis challenging to address the issue of racial discrimination inFrance because, for a long time, the nation has a cultivated aculture where race is not recognized (Danielle, par4). This paperwill discuss the issue of racial profiling in France and suggestssome of the strategies that can efficiently resolve it.
Franceshould stop racial profiling because it targets people based on theirskin color or ethnic background, causing violence, hatred, and fearamong people.
Causesof racial profiling in France
Whileoccurrences of racial profiling are expansively covered, little issaid about the real cause of the problem (Ramirez, Hoope &Quinlan, 1195). The people who support racial profiling argue theprimary cause of racial profiling is the fact that minority groupsengage in various evils. This group of thought argues that most ofthe minority groups live in insecure suburbs characterized by highrates and low living standards (Rushing, par8). As a result, lawenforcement officers are forced to patrol these suburbs morefrequently to maintain order and prevent crime. Moreover, they pointout that minority ethnicities, especially the Blacks and Arabs aremore aggressive and rarely do they co-operate in simple tasks such aspolice stops and checks. Consequently, the law enforcement officersare forced to use some force to conduct their day-to-day duties.
However,the argument for racial profiling has been refuted by the few studiesthat have been done to find the real causes of racial profiling. Oneof the causes of racial profiling in France is institutional racism(Ramirez, Hoope & Quinlan, 1196). The war on drugs and terrorismare some of the factors that are causing racial profiling in France.According to (Natarajan, par5), many of the suspects of terrorism anddrug trafficking are people from the minority ethnicities. As aresult, the policies have developed a stereotypical belief that theBlacks and Arabs are more likely to commit such crimes compared tothe Whites.
TheFrench laws have given the police officers much power to efficientlyhandle issues of drug trafficking and terrorism. Consequently, thepolice officers are misusing these powers to exercise theirstereotypical beliefs leading to racial profiling. In an interviewwith one of the plaintiffs by the name Bocar in a Paris courtchallenging the state of racial profiling, the 32-year old manconfessed that the police used unnecessary force in checking him yethe was innocent. Bocar was among the 15 men from minority groups whohad filed a lawsuit against the French interior ministry in charge ofpolice forces.
“Theypulled me against the wall and … said, ‘If you fail to corporatewe will kick you.’ And the police officer waved his gun towards me.The experience before my younger siblings was abusive andhumiliating” Bocar said. (French24 News, par9).
Ethnicprofiling may also be as a result of institutional policies focusingon particular forms of crimes or specific geographical areas withoutputting into consideration adverse impacts on certain ethnic groups(Ramirez, Hoopes & Quinlan, 1196). For instance, local securityadministrations may require police officers to spend more timepatrolling Black or Arabian neighborhoods, leading to more incidencesof racial profiling among the minority groups. Additionally, therecent terror attacks in Paris are one of the factors leading to highincidences of racial profiling in France. The current French policiesare focused on terrorism, and hence, the police are focused on thisform of crime, which is associated with the minority ethnicities(Glover,11).
Theother reason as to why racial profiling still exists in France isweak laws. The French law has no specific clause that prohibitspolice from being discriminative by race because not many people inFrance believe in ethnicity, leave alone racial profiling (Danielle,par4). Lanna Hollo, an attorney for open justice initiative stated
"Thelegal framework is too broad. There are no records for police checksmeaning that there is no transparency or possibility of knowing whyor how they are carried out. Therefore, it is difficult for the lawto do anything about racial profiling. Identity check should be basedon suspicious behavior and not appearance."(France 24 News, par 10).
Thegroup of lawyers representing the 15 plaintiffs argued that it isalmost impossible to prove that a police check comprises racialprofiling because of the absence of the written evidence that a checkwas justified or that even one took place (France News, par11). Thelawyers complained that many of the French police officers violatedthe law and people’s rights when conducting their checks. One ofthe lawyers de Belloy said at a news convention after filing thecase:
“Whenthey ask why, the law enforcement officers say ‘shut up’. It iscrucial to understand that this is contrary to the law… suchpractice amounts to discrimination and must come to an end.”(France 24 News, par7).
RacialProfiling is widespread in France
Accordingto (Danielle, par4), France has for a long time cultivated a culturein which the term racism and racial profiling is not accepted. Manypeople in France especially the Whites believe that racial profilingdoes not exist in their society. In fact, race and ethnicity are notincluded in French census (Staples,32).The French law also does not seem to believe that there is racialprofiling since it prohibits the collection and documentation of anydata about racial discrimination. One French sociologist, MichaelWieviorka said
“Ifyou mention ‘ethnic’ or ‘racial’ data to a French person, heor she will perceive you a racist. The French do not acknowledge‘race’ as a social construction but as a physical descriptionhuman groups, and at no cost can they accept that racial profilingexists in their society.”(Danielle, par4).
Theargument that racial profiling does not exist in France may be trueto many of the Whites who have never experienced any form of racialdiscrimination since they belong to the superior race. However, formany people from minority groups, racial profiling is real andwidespread in France (Natarajan, par4).
Accordingto various studies, racial profiling remains a persistent andpervasive issue in France because the many people are not ready toacknowledge the fact the problem exists. According to (Natarajan,par5), many law enforcement officers have adopted a habit of usingnegative stereotypes especially about the minority groups in making adecision as to who is more suspicious to perpetuate crime in thesociety. As a result, racial profiling by police officers has becomewidespread not only in France but other countries such as America,resulting in violence and hatred among people of different colors.France is one of the countries that do believe neither in racism norracial profiling. According to Glaser, French law does not allow thegathering and documentation of any data on ethnicity. Therefore,though racial profiling persists in France, the law is still notclear on how it can be stopped.
Variousstudies reports and press coverage reveals that the issue of racialprofiling is prevalent and on the rise in France. Many of the studiesagree that French youth, especially from the minority groups such asthe Arabs and Africans, are continuously forced to undergohumiliating police stops and checks based on their skin color and notactions (Johnsonet.al,442).The victims complain of lacking the freedom to walk freely in thestreets because they are afraid of harassment that they face wheneverstopped by police officers. In 2005, two young men of immigrantorigin were electrocuted to death while hiding in a power plant toevade a police identity check (Mucchielli, 371). The deaths caused amajor riot with thousands of people from minority groups expressingtheir frustration and misery about racial discrimination.
Accordingto a 2007 study by Open Society Foundations, police stops andidentity checks are widespread in ordinary public spaces and uptownareas with high population of the French people of immigrantoriginality (9). Stereotypical police officers believe that theplaces inhabited by minority groups have high crime rates since theyassociate people of color with crimes. A decade ago, a Frenchactivist group stated that, in any police station in France, it isthe ethnic minorities who are stopped for checks and not the white,French-looking ones. The group further argued that the ethnicminorities are stopped by police not because they look suspicious andhave shown any aggression, but because they are Arabian, Caribbean orAfrican.
Thestudy by Open Society Justice Initiative established that policechecks in Paris are primarily based on skin color rather than thecharacter of a person (Open Society Foundations, par 12). Their studyresults revealed that people perceived to be Black or Arab have highchances of being stopped by police compared to the Whites. In theirstudy, they found that a person with African originality is six timesmore prone to be blocked by a police officer compared to a Whitewhile an Arab was usually 7.6 times more probable than Whites to bechecked by law enforcement officer. The study follow-up interviewreveals that people of color encounter more police stops and checkscompared to people with Western or European originality. Also, thestudy points out that apart from skin color the mode of dressingmakes one prone to police stops and checks. According to the studyfindings, people dressed in hip-hop and gothic styles associated withthe Black youths were more probable to be harassed by law enforcementofficers compared to people dressed in Western or European fashions.
Despitethe fact that the issue of racial profiling is prevalent in France,not until the year 2013 that the state was accused in a court ofracial discrimination practiced in police checks. In this particularcase, 13 French men all from minority ethnicities namely North Africaand Sub-Saharan Africa aged between 13 and 18 challenged the statefor unfair police checks which caused them humiliation and loss ofdignity (Chrisafis, par4). The men claimed that they were stoppedseverally in various cities in French not because they lookedsuspicious of perpetuating crime but because of their race. However,the court ruled for the state arguing that men could not prove anyracial motives by the police officers in stopping for routine checks. However, their lawyers appealed for a second hearing and in 2015,the court ruled that the actions by the law enforcement officers weredeliberate discrimination by race. Also, the court advised the Frenchgovernment to ensure all police stops and checks are conducted in amanner that respects all essential human rights.
Recently,after the 2015 terrorist attacks in France, racial profilingtargeting Muslims, Arabs and Blacks have been on the rise(Christenson, par3). According to Chrisafis, the November 13th,2015 terror-relate attacks in Paris, which are believed to have beenperpetrated by criminals of Arab and African originality has made theminority groups, including Muslims to become primary suspects in allsorts of crimes. While supporting 13 men from minority groups who hadchallenged the French state of perpetrating racial profiling byallowing biased police checks, Sihame Assbaugue a spokeswoman for anactivist group said:
"Thecurrent fight against terrorism in France seems to have provoked thepolice officers to stop and check people of Muslim appearance, inother words, Arabs and Black. This trend is very worrying for us." (Chrisafis, par7)
Beforehe was elected in 2012, the current France President FrancoisHollande acknowledged that racial profiling in police checks was anational issue and promised to implement strategies and reforms tosolve the problem efficiently. However, Natarajan argues that nothingmuch has been done to resolve this matter because the currentpolicies are weak, and the law enforcement officers are takingadvantage of them to perpetuate all forms of discrimination (par8).
Doesracial profiling in France work?
Forthe people who believe in racial profiling, they argue that it is aneffective way of reducing crime in areas with high population ofimmigrants. The argument for racial profiling rests on the assumptionthat the minorities (Arabs and Blacks), are more likely to engage incrimes such as drug trafficking and burglary. Moreover, some peopleassociate individuals with a Muslim appearance with terrorism.Therefore, since these ethnicities are associated with such crime, itis justified for law enforcement officers to single out persons whofit the profile to prevent crime in the society (Chrisafis, par7).According to this school of thought, it is a waste of resources forlaw enforcement officers to conduct identity checks among groups,which are known not to indulge in evils. Moreover, they argue that itis not sensible for police officers to stop and check every personespecially in places inhabited by the Whites since such environs aresecure and lack evils such as drug use, street burglary,prostitution, among others (Geai, 1). The argument concludes thatuse of racial profiling is cost-effective and efficient since ithelps the law enforcement officers in reducing the time and resourcesneeded to prevent crime in the society.
However,several studies that have been carried out on this topic reveal thatracial profiling does not work. In fact, racial profiling createsmore problems such as violence, hatred and policing inefficienciesinstead of helping in preventing crime (Jobard & Rene, 81). Thestudy carried out by Mucchielli in 2005 revealed that racialprofiling does not prevent crime but instead cause major riots thatlead to the destruction of property and even loss of human life(732). In the 2005 November riots, thousands of enraged people fromminority groups together with their supporters protested across 300French cities and town destroying several vehicles and wounding overa hundred law enforcement officers. The people were protesting thedeaths of two young men who were electrocuted while hiding in a powerplant. According to (Jobard& Rene, 83), such riots have strained the relationship betweenthe French law enforcement officers and the youths especially fromthe minority groups living in miserable urban and uptown areas.
Accordingto (Krauthammer,par3), random checks based on physical appearance carried out bysecurity enforcement officers at airports are a waste of time andresources.
‘Wehave all witnesses…..in disbelief as an 80-year old Irish womanbeing subjected to a head-to-toe search, for what?” (Krauthammer,par3).
Randomsearches based on physical appearance give a false impression ofsecurity because the police waste so much time and resources oninnocent people. The National Institute of Justice supportsKrauthammer’s argument that racial profiling creates severalproblems which end up making policing all the more challenging(par2). The Institute argues that racial profiling is an inefficientpolicing strategy because it can lead t criminals changing theiractivities outside the profile. For instance, if racial profilingentails police officers targeting Black and Arab youths, thecriminals can change their strategy and start using children and theelderly from different tribes even the Whites (par, 2).
Peoplewho are subjected to embarrassing and sometimes traumatic experiencesby the police end up losing confidence in the law enforcementauthorities (Jobard & Rene, 84). When the public loses trust inpolice officers, they fail to report any form of crime leading tohigh level of insecurity in the society. Furthermore, Jobard &Rene argue that racial profiling is under-inclusive in the sense thatthe criminals who do not fit in the profile can easily escape the law(84). Under-inclusion makes policing inefficient because it divertsthe attention of the police from individuals who perpetrate thecrimes in our societies. The study by Open Society Justice Initiativepoints out that racial profiling is ineffective and counterproductivepolicing strategy since it exerts pressure on individuals, groups andthe society at large. The approach creates fear among groups that fitthe profile targeted by police and creates a rivalry between theWhites and other minority races in France (Natarajan, par10).
Solutionsto Racial Profiling in France
Thepeople who believe that racial profiling is justified argue that thepractice can only come to an end when the minority groups, especiallyArabs and Blacks stop engaging in various crimes. The school ofthought argues that the change in behavior among the targeted groupswill force the police officers to stop profiling. However, as(Natarajan, par6) points out, racial profiling is not the fault ofthe targeted individuals or groups but the perpetrators who, in manycases are law enforcement officers.
“Toeradicate this inefficient policing strategy that undermines public`sconfidence, there should be stronger policies against racialprofiling from the local to the international level. Effectualtraining and monitoring of police officers and accountability by lawenforcement authorities will also help in solving this challengingissue.”(Natarajan, par6)
Daniellesupport argument mention earlier by pointing that the FrenchGovernment needs to reform the law that prohibits documentation ofethno-racial data (par5). Danielle argues that as long as the lawavoid issues to do with ethnicity and racism, it will remaindifficult to resolve racial profiling. In addition to implementinglaw reforms, the France government should consider on appointing aminister to address the issues surrounding racism and ethnicprofiling (TheEditorial Board, 1).
Accordingto (Glaser, par10), nations faced with the challenge of racial biassuch as France should educate its population about racism instead ofcultivating a culture that sweeps it under the rug. For instance,unlike the United States where there are museums about slavery, thereare none in France (Keaton,231).Building museums with several exhibits on slavery would be efficientstrategies of educating the public about racism hence understand thecauses of racial profiling. Moreover, the NAACP.org point out thatthe End Racial Profiling Act helped the Unite States in restoringsome confidence among communities of color (par1). Therefore, Francecan adopt such an Act to restore good relations with the policeofficers and minority groups and at the same time ensure the publicregains its confidence in the law enforcement authorities.
Fromthe paper, it is evident that racial profiling in France is anineffective policing strategy. The various studies reviewed haverevealed that ethnic profiling creates fear among the minoritygroups, leads to riots and makes the public lose confidence in thelaw enforcement officers. Historically, France is known for racialprofiling especially against people with an immigrant origin orMuslim appearance. The latest 2015 terror attacks seem to haveprovoked law enforcement officers to focus on harassing the minoritygroups who comprise the Arabs, Blacks, and Muslims. Some people arguethat racial profiling do work because it helps the police inpreventing crime among the groups that are known to perpetratevarious crimes.
However,there is adequate evidence that racial profiling is an ineffectivepolicing strategy because it leads to waste of time and resources.Furthermore, it fuels violence among the targeted people because theyfeel helpless and frustrated. Racial profiling also creates adivision between the White and Non-Whites because the latter feel nottreated equally before the law. It is important that the Frenchgovernment come up with solutions to this epidemic before it becomesa national disaster. Strategies such as the inclusion of ethno-racialstatics in French census can help in solving the issue of racialprofiling. Also, strict and vigorous policies should be implementedto ensure police officers are held accountable for any action relatedto racial profiling. The government should also consider appointing aminister to oversee the issues of racism in the nation. Finally butnot the least, the public should be educated about racism tounderstand the causes and solutions to the problem. Education can bein the form of public campaigns, integration of racism as a topic inthe existing school curriculum and building of museums on the themeof slavery.
Chrisafis,Angelique. "France Awaits Landmark Ruling on `racial Profiling`ID Checks." TheGuardian.Guardian News and Media, 2015.
Thisarticle highlights the impact which the terror attack which tookplace in January 2016, has as far as relationship been the police andthe rest of the citizens especially those from non-white community.The in-depth look at the existing as well as the past injustices isoffered. For instance, the longstanding civil test case which wasbrought by 13 French men from north African origin was determined.
Christenson,Jennifer. "Racial Profiling against Muslims." SkippingStones,2010: Vol. 22 Issue 1, p.6.
Inthis article, authored by Jennifer Christenson, racial profiling ofthose from the Muslim community is well documented. The main reasonfor choosing this article is highlighting the way racial backgroundsare used as weapons to fight terror by the police in France
Danielle,Trica K.RacialProfiling in France and the U.S.,(Pt.1), 2012.Retrieved from: http://www.racismreview.com/blog/2012/06/11/racial-profiling-france-us-pt-1/
Inthis article authored by Trica Danielle Keaton, an AssociateProfessor, African American & Diaspora Studies at VanderbiltUnviersity, the issues of racial profiling in the US and in France iscandidly offered. For instance, the special prosecutor in the TrayvonMartin gave a substandard ruling in favour of the white community.The same day this ruling was offered, lawyers in France filed alawsuit alleging constant cases of racial profiling in France.Therefore, the comparison made between racial profiling in France andUS in this document makes its crucial for my research work.
France24 News.Frenchminorities accuse state of racial profiling,2012.
Themain purpose of choosing this particular article authored by France24 is the fact that, it offers a case filed by 15 people from France.In this case, one of the lawyers representing the group offers andin-depth analysis of what this group of minorities go through. Thisespecially as far as insults, threats, and body injury inflicted bythe police in France.
Geai,Laurence. France:The state of racial profiling.2016. Web. Available at
Theway ethnicminorities are treated by law enforcement agencies is offered.Further, a comparison with other countries such as the US is made.
Glover,Karen S. Racial Profiling: Research, Racism, and Resistance. Rowman& Littlefield, 2009.
Inthis book authored by KarenS. Glover, an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology, Criminologyand Justice Studies Program, at California State University SanMarcos, various social science practices affecting racial profilingare covered. This book also offers an in-depth interview as well asanalysis on the issue of racial profiling thus useful for my study.
GlaserJack. Howto reduce racial profiling,2015. Retrieved from: http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_reduce_racial_profiling
Theneed to urgently reduce cases of racial profiling has remained a keyissue of focus to many governments and stakeholders across the globe.As a result, this article is crucial as it highlights major ways inwhich this can be tackled especially in the European regions and theUS. One of the recommendations is to ensure strict laws andpunishment to police officers participating in this vice.
JohnsonDevon, Daniel Brazier, Katrina Forrest, Crispin Ketelhut, DarronMason & Marc Mitchell "Attitudes Toward the use ofRacial/Ethnic Profiling to Prevent Crime and Terrorism". PublicAdministration Review 22:422–447.2011.
Thisarticle highlights the attitude which the general public has towardsthe use of racial profiling as a tool to reduce cases of terrorism inthe US as well as other EU countries.
Keaton,Trica.Racial profiling and the ‘French exception’. FrenchCultural StudiesMay2013 vol.24 no.2 231-242.http://frc.sagepub.com/content/24/2/231.abstract
Themain reason for using this article is based on the fact that ithighlights the effect of culture and politics in propagating racialdiscrimination.
Krauthammer,Charles. "The Case for Profiling." Time.Time Inc, 2002. Retrieved from: http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,216319,00.html
Inthis article, the scandal involve grouping of female passengers wearing the veil is seen as a way of carrying out racial profiling.The controversial defense of such an act by the chief of transportmakes this article an important part of the study as it highlightsnegligence from the parties who should be fighting against profiling.
Jobard,Fabien, and Rene Levy. "Profiling Minorities A Study ofStop-and-Search Practices in Paris." (2009): 82.
Inthis article, the plight which people pass due to their ethnicbackground and the clothes they wear is fully indicated. Above 500stops made by the police are documented, which indicates that blacksare more likely to suffer as compared to their white counterparts.
Mucchielli,Laurent. "Autumn 2005: A review of the most important riot inthe history of French contemporary society." Journalof Ethnic and Migration Studies35.5 (2009): 731-751.
Thearticle Autumn2005: A review of the most important riot in the history of Frenchcontemporary societyby Laurent Mucchielli highlights the main issues which have beenhappening in France society right from the time black movement andrevolution. The issue of racial profiling is candidly indicated.
NatarajanRanjana. Racialprofiling has destroyed public trust in police. Cops are exploitingour weak laws against it. TheWashington Post,Dec 15th2014. Retrieved from:https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2014/12/15/racial-profiling-has-destroyed-public-trust-in-police-cops-are-exploiting-our-weak-laws-against-it/
Asindicated by RanjanaNatarajan, who is a clinicalprofessor and director of the Civil Rights Clinic at The Universityof Texas School of Law, racial profiling has played a key role indestroying public trust in the police unit. Based on this, thisarticle is important as it indicates how the police are exploitingthe weak laws in France to propagate racial profiling.
NationalInstitute of Justice. "RacialProfiling”Web. 20 Apr. 2016.
Thisarticle highlights the main issues which lead to racial profiling.From the article, the multiple problems associated with racialprofiling such as to law to enforcing agencies makes it a veryinteresting source for my work.
OpenSociety Foundations . “ParisCourt Accepts Appeal on French Police Ethnic Profiling Case,2015.”Retrievedfrom:https://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/press-releases/paris-court-accepts-appeal-french-police-ethnic-profiling-case
Inthis article, effort made by police in order to reduce cases ofracial profiling is indicated, thus making it important for my study.
Ramirez,Deborah A., Jennifer Hoopes, and Tara Lai Quinlan. "Definingracial profiling in a post-September 11 world." Am.Crim. L. Rev.40 (2003): 1195.
AccordingDeborah Ramirez among others, the challenges facing the black and the non-white community especially post-September 11 attack in the USis well documented., thus making it important for my study.
Rushing,Keith. "Dissecting the Long, Deep Roots of Racial Profiling inAmerica."The Huffington Post,May 1st2013. TheHuffingtonPost.com.
Thearticle offers rich background on the history of racial profiling allthe way from 18thcentury up to date, thus crucial for my research work.
Staples,Robert"WhitePower, Black Crime, And Racial Politics". 2011.Black Scholar 41(4): 31–41. Available athttp://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5816/blackscholar.41.4.0031?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents
Thepolitical issues facing the non-white communities which are the maincauses for racial profiling is well offered.
"TheEnd Racial Profiling Act Introduced in Both the U.S. House ofRepresentatives and the Senate." NAACP.Web. 21 Apr. 2016.
Justlike the article written by Jack Glaser, this article highlightsmajor ways in which this can be tackled especially in the Europeanregions and the US.
TheEditorial Board. End Ethnic Profiling in France. TheNew York Times.2016. Available at
Inthis article, the ruling offered by a court of appeal in France isoffered. It is a major step towards ending racial profiling, thusused to strengthen my research work.