Ten years ago, in June 2001, the End Racial Profiling Act (ERPA) was first introduced in both houses of Congress with strong bipartisan support. Policymakers understood that the time had come to address the problem of racial profiling—but that all changed after 9/11.
Forty years ago, Richard Nixon declared the “War on Drugs” and in the 1980’s and ‘90’s, drug enforcement targeted black and brown people, often explicitly. In 1998 the Department of Justice even conducted an investigation of policing strategies on the New Jersey Turnpike, and found the consistent practice of racial profiling. By June 2001, “Driving while Black or Brown” was a well-known phrase, and public opinion was firmly opposed to racial profiling. After years of organizing and litigation against racial profiling by police, mostly around "Driving while Black or Brown," racial justice advocates believed that the passage of ERPA was achievable.
After September 11th, this outlook changed significantly. The outcry against “Driving while Black or Brown” was overshadowed by the targeting of Muslim, Arab, Middle Eastern, and South Asian people as potential terrorism suspects. The government continued, expanded, and justified the use of racial profiling and began systematizing policies and programs that targeted Arabs, Middle Easterners, Muslims and South Asians in the name of national security. There has also been an increase of policies that invite racial profiling in immigration enforcement. These policies have had broad impacts on all communities of color.
Ten years later, ERPA has evolved to encompass the new forms of racial profiling in the name of national security and immigration enforcement that have emerged since 9/11. ERPA, in the form of a proposed draft that lawmakers hope to introduce in Congress in September, now prohibits racial profiling in the context of immigration enforcement, airport screenings, and surveillance activities, as well as stop-and-frisk and traffic stops. Racial profiling has evolved and expanded over the last ten years to impact more communities of color: now is the time for affected communities to unite in a shared struggle to face the truth and stop all forms of racial profiling.
Reclaim our rights: Ask your Congressional representative to become an original co-sponsor of ERPA. Learn more about ERPA. Host a conversation about how 9/11 impacted your community and made racial profiling more widespread. Connect with other local communities experiencing racial profiling, and start to have conversations about working together. Join RWG's #reclaimrights Twitter chat on Sept. 7th to share how 9/11 has impacted your community and how you are organizing to reclaim our rights. Join the RWG National Week of Action and host an event to reflect on our loss and reclaim our rights.
This post is part of the Reflecting on Our Loss and Reclaiming Our Rights National Week of Action. To host an event on how 9/11 impacted your community, click here.To see other posts in the "Policy Impact Ten Years Since 9/11" series, click here.