He wears baggy clothes so he must be a drug dealer, he’s tall and buff so he must be an athlete, or he wears a white tank top so he must be a wife beater. “Stereotypes of a Black male misunderstood.”
This line from the late Notorious B.I.G.’s Juicy best describes many white Americans’ views of young African-American males. In a country where slavery and segregation have come and gone, stereotyping and discriminating against young Black males is still present.
One of the oldest, yet most popular forms of discrimination against Black males is DWB, or Driving While Black. Although this “offense” has been played up a bit in Hollywood hits like “Crash,” the fact that DWB’s actually happen can’t be overlooked. It’s a well known fact that if a young black male is driving a luxurious vehicle and taking precaution on the road, most police consider him suspicious and pull him over. Since it’s against the law for an officer to pull over a vehicle without probable cause, when they spot a “suspicious” vehicle they stop the driver for a traffic violation.
This nasty thing called racial profiling has been going on since…day #1. Most of this discrimination originated from the stereotype that young Black males are the major culprits of America’s drug trade. Some states such as Florida even distributed guidelines to the police which described the “characteristics” of drug dealers. In 1985, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles told officers to be suspicious of rental cars, drivers wearing a surplus of gold and who don’t fit the vehicle, and ethnic groups who are known to be associated with the drug trade. You can find this list of “characteristics” on their web site.
It is ironic that the stereotype of drug dealers is that they are people of color. According to the Physician Leadership on National Drug Policy (PLNLP), 50% of heroin users are educated Whites and 60% of cocaine users are White. As if these statistics weren’t mind blowing enough, 77% of regular marijuana users are White and only 1 in 6 are black.
This statistical data proves that most drug users/dealers are old White men, not young black males. But due to racial profiling, 62.7% of Blacks are incarcerated for drug convictions and 36.7% of Whites are incarcerated. Since the elderly White man doesn’t fit the “characteristics” of a drug dealer/user, they aren’t stopped by police.
The numbers are overwhelming: African Americans are 13% of the country’s population, but they are 62.7% of convicted drug users/dealers. Caucasians are 80% of the country’s population, they are the majority of drug users/dealers (marijuana – 77%, cocaine – 60%, and heroin -50%), but only 36.7% of them are locked up.
Mere coincidence or racial profiling/discrimination; you be the judge!
By Ashley McBride