Racial Profiling Gone Wrong

            The original term “racial profiling” referred to when law enforcement uses a person’s race or cultural background as the primary reason to suspect that the individual has broken the law. A primary and common example of this is airport security. Individuals who are Muslim or physically have an ‘Arab look’ tend to receive extra airport security check because it is automatically assumed that they might be a terrorist.

I have actually had a personal experience with this when my family was driving across the boarder one summer. My father, who has a full beard and mustache and tanned skin, facial appearances that resemble those of Arabic descent, was at the driver’s seat when we arrived at the boarder. Right after he put down the window to talk to the officer, before any questions were asked the officer immediately asked my father to step out of the car and to open all doors. As the oldest child I was asked if “this man” is really my father and if the other children in the car are really my siblings. I blankly looked at the officer and told him that he was my father and that we are going on a family trip. After my father received a pat down and they were done investigating every aspect of our car, we were free to cross the boarder. Unfortunately, this is one of many stories related to racial profiling. Now, statistics have shown that an Arab-looking man boarding an airplane is more likely to be a terrorist. However, do statistics like this give law enforcement officers the right to treat those who physically appear as “danger” different and more extreme security treatment than those who appear “safe,” such as a white individual? Racial profiling has turned into extreme racial discrimination and it is a serious problem that seems far from being fixed.

 

To begin, lets first take a look at this article that I found online:

http://www.cireport.ca/2011/12/canada-racist-prison-system-sees-50-spike-in-black-inmates.html

 

            Evidently, racial profiling is not only a serious problem that occurs in security checks, but individuals that are apart of minority groups are having their lives ruined and limited because of this problem. The above article shares that there has been a 52% increase in black offenders in jail, which is the most dramatic increase that there has ever been. The article also explains that black offenders placed in jail are locked up at younger ages and for longer periods of time. Therefore, if and when they are released, it is at their peak employment time, however they are let back into the world with no employment or housing because their lives have been spent behind bars instead. This most defiantly has an impact on why the poverty rates for coloured people are significantly higher compared to the white population. This is a prime example of institutional racism, which is any kind of system of inequality based on race. Unfortunately, it goes even further than coloured individuals just being charged than their white counterparts. The treatment that this minority group receives in jail tends to be harsher and much more brutal by the officers. If law enforcement officials are treating minority groups with greater enforcement and harsher punishment, then what does this say about society? Individuals look up to officials, like police officers, and if their treatment towards minorities is unfair, then individuals are going to believe that this treatment is just and will follow their lead.

           

            Looking at the history of minority groups, there seems to be influential causes for their treatments seen today. For instance, black students have received harsher punishments in school, a place where all children should feel safe. Therefore, these children have higher chances of growing up into “rebels,” contributing to the reputation that blacks are affiliated with gangs and want to cause to harm to others. Another further contribution to this problem is the Prison-Industrial Complex. The Prison-Industrial Complex helps secure the authority of people who get their power through racial, economic and other structural privileges by defending current power distributions. This is created through media portraying certain groups as criminal delinquents. For example, in the movie Training Day, Denzel Washington trains a police officer, but by following his own techniques, which are quite unorthodox for the police force. By the end of the movie, Denzel’s character becomes what one would consider a dishonest and disproved cop. When media, one of the strongest influential tools, is consistently portraying those of minority groups as villains or outcasts, it is surely going to influence how society behaves towards them.

           

            Racial discrimination is extremely problematic that requires a change in the structure of society in order for fixture to begin. Media has a large amount of influence and power to help this change, but instead it has been used to contribute to the issue at large. The way media portrays minority groups, such as coloured people, is often done in a negative light and this contributes to the treatment they receive in real-life by authorities. Making assumptions based on one’s physical appearance or cultural background is wrong, even if statistics may prove otherwise. There always needs to be probable cause for search or seizure and this law should remain enforced in all areas of society. 

 

            

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The Utopia Isn’t So Perfect After All

It has become common knowledge that those with disabilities in western, modern society are constantly faced with social barriers that prevent them from fully participating within their community. I personally believe that with time and effort that these barriers can begin to diminish. However, the influential and powerful pop culture today plays no role in helping reducing the barriers for people with disabilities, because movies and advertisements are constantly portraying disabled persons as helpless and useless. We, society, are unconsciously influenced by these endless amounts of media portrayals that surround us on a daily basis.

Definitions and terminology play a strong role in defining the negative perceptions placed on those with disabilities. For instance, the individual model of disability uses a physiological approach and states that impairment is due to genetic heritage, accident or disease. This definition clearly claims that those with disabilities do not follow what the majority of modern, society defines as ‘normal.’ Official terminology, like the individual model of disability, has the capability to affect how society perceives those with disabilities. If the terminology is giving a negative connotation on those with disabilities then the perception of disabled persons by society will also tend to have an undesirable implication.

You might be wondering now what media portrays disabled persons in a negative light. One example is a top selling box office movie hit in 2009, Avatar. Not only does Avatar make those with disabilities appear weak and unworthy, but it also has numerous racists and gender stereotypes remarks. No wonder thousands of articles were published critiquing the movie after it was released.

Lets first focus on the portrayal of those with disabilities. For those of you who do not know, Avatar is about a white man named, Jake Sully, who abandons his disabled body and goes to a world called, Pandora. In Pandora he is suppose to persuade the nature-loving Na’vi tribe that lives there to make way for humans to come in and mine in their land. Eventually, Sully switches sides and falls in love with the Na’vi princess and leads the tribe to victory against the white men. Sounds familiar, right? To begin, Avatar takes place in a utopian society, meaning it is an imagined place where everything is perfect. Yet, one aspect that does not appear ‘perfect’ is Sully’s disabled body. Throughout the movie, Sully expresses that he prefers his Avatar body because in it he is able to walk and is not restricted in his wheelchair. The movie delivers the message that one should be happier and life is better when you are not disabled, for Sully’s character only feels powerful and useful when he is in the Avatar world and not in his wheelchair. In addition, the utopia created in Avatar is extremely high-tech and futuristic. Technology is constantly aiding researchers on the Avatar world and helping them solve their problems. In other words, the movie is predicting that in the future it is possible that technology might be able to solve multiple problems for it will become so advance. It is quite interesting how the technology in this utopia is used in multiple ways, yet it appears that it was never used to study how it can assist those with disabilities, showing that disabled persons’ life style remains the same in the present and the future and they will always have barriers restricting them.

While on the topic of Avatar, it is relevant to mention the gender stereotypes and racists remarks that occur throughout the movie because these are still ongoing issues that surround us. Lets first take a look at the structure of the Avatars:

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Avatar’s Body Structure

Notice how both are practically naked and that the male is muscular, strong and has a defined six pack and the female is thin and physically fit. Both the male and female Avatars are given the ‘ideal’ body image of their sex. Even in a utopian world, media shows that there is still only way to appear attractive.

The racism throughout Avatar is the plot of the entire movie. If you recall the plot summary, Sully, is a white male that leaves his disabled body and becomes an Avatar in Pandora. Although Sully physically appears as one of the Avatars, white privilege – advantages that white people benefit from that is beyond the common advantages experienced by coloured people – remains with him throughout. Sully does not necessarily get the whole Na’vi experience because he always has the choice to switch back to human mode, giving him an advantage over the rest of the Na’vis. Lastly, the movie ends when the white man, saves the ‘helpless’ coloured people, in this case blue people, from the white peoples’ attacks. As usual, the white person is accepted in the coloured world, becomes the most loved person and then eventually becomes their leader and saves them. Again, media is emphasizing that coloured people always needs a white person to rescue them, even though we all know this is not true.

Although Avatar may have been a box office knock out, it is no secret that the movie discriminates those with disabilities, reinforces gender stereotypes and reiterates the historical white people-colour people relationship. With pop culture producing movies with these messages, it is no wonder that barriers exist for minority groups today.