How to Detect Media Bias
Racial profiling is a concern that is prevalent in society today. Over past few years law enforcement officers have faced a great deal of scrutiny in regards to their encounters with criminals of a different race. Racial profiling is when someone is suspected of a wrong doing because of their race or ethnicity. Law enforcement officers have a legal and moral obligation to protect and serve which includes treating all members of the society equally and not allowing bias and stereotypes to cloud their judgment. Some people believe that racial profiling does not exist but in fact police are just being proactive. While others believe racial profiling has resulted in the unwarranted use of violence, excessive focus on minorities in jail, and ultimately a loss of trust for officers. Mass media plays a substantial part in persuading the view of the public on social issues.
One perspective regarding racial profiling is that it is not true. In an article written for the National Review the national news story, “Proactive Policing Is Not ‘Racial Profiling” written by Heather MacDonald who takes this stance. The author points out how the actions of law enforcement are mistaken for racial profiling when in fact the law enforcement are just doing their jobs by acting proactively (MacDonald, 2014). MacDonald takes a strong stance against labeling the actions of law enforcement as racial profiling. Many new stories concerning racial profiling and unwarranted violence are exaggerated (MacDonald, 2014). There is some truth that officers typically arrest one race more so than another because they patrol by zone or neighborhood. Most crimes occurs in low class communities where large portion of the population while be African American or Latinos citizens. Usually people of the same race or ethnicity tend to live in similar neighborhoods so if the neighborhood is a high crime area then that would cause the officers to arrest one race more than another (Matsueda, Drakulich, and Kurbin, 2005). Based on the information in this article, law enforcement officers do not racially profile but will make contact with a person of any color if they are engaging in behavior the law enforcement officer considers to be suspicious.
When minorities are targeted by law enforcement it creates distrust. In the article “Racial Profiling has Destroyed Public Trust in Law Enforcement; Cops are Exploiting our Weak Laws Against It” the author, Ranjana Natarajan, discusses how racial profiling has resulted in a lack of trust in law enforcement especially by the minority public which has resulted in increased violence and nationwide protests. The article can be found in the national media source, the Washington Post and was written by Natarajan who is the director of the Civil Rights Clinic and a clinical professor. When instances of racial profiling or unwarranted force is used against a minority criminal, it enrages the minority people resulting in looting and other acts of violence. Even peaceful attempts to stop this unfair practice by law enforcement has yielded little results. Unfortunately, due to the stereotypes and perceptions surrounding racial profiling minorities will no longer seek out the assistance of law enforcement if they become crime victims and criminal incidents involving minorities will be only become more volatile and dangerous. Natarajan suggests the nation needs comprehensive federal and state policies that ban racial profiling and control the use of unwarranted force by law enforcement (2015). Natarajan finds there is clear evidence law enforcement select suspects based on race. The most alarming evidence can be found in the federal correctional system (2015). Currently, American correctional system is overrepresented by men of color. According to the United States Sentencing commission, 93.3% of the federal prison population is male with 73.1% being of a race other than Caucasian (2015). The information in this article shows clear evidence that more minorities are imprisoned and the consequences of racial profiling.
Compare & Contrast
The two authors disagree about racial profiling. One supports the evidence which has shown racial profiling exists. According to the National Institute of Justice 74% of all stops made by law enforcement will be minority males (2013). This information supports Natarajan’s findings that law enforcement unfairly target minority males. The report goes on to find that racial profiling is not a department wide problem but usually just the result of a few law enforcement officer with racial bias tendencies (National Institute of Justice, 2013). With proper training law enforcement officers can learn to identify suspects based solely on suspicious behavior instead of on cultural bias and stereotypes.
MacDonald’s article discusses the use of the media and politicians of the term racial policing and how it has increased the risk to law enforcement officers. When politicians support the belief of racial profiling it gives minority offenders an excuse to lash out or run from law enforcement. Both authors agree there is a problem but cite different explanations for the current tension between minorities and law enforcement officers. The opposing views of the two authors can send a mixed message to the audience creating confusion over the true extent of the racial profiling problem. Both authors fail to provide information on the opposing arguments concerning racial profiling.
Rhetorical Devices & Qualifiers
Rhetorical devices are present in the Natarajan and the MacDonald articles in that both arguments only present their point of view and the articles are colored by personal bias. The media plays a powerful role in influencing the opinion of viewers. MacDonald finds the current violence against law enforcement is due to the misuse of the term racial profiling while Natarajan finds violence against law enforcement will only continue to escalate while racial profiling practices continue. Both authors use qualifiers. For example Natarajan discusses how 17 states established racial proofing law enforcements but “more states must follow” (2015). MacDonald claims, all the people who have turned the shootings of a minority into a sign of extensive law enforcement racism, accepts responsibility for this rising crisis of law enforcement validity (2014). It is important to provide a well-rounded report on the topic. The tone of both articles are urgent because the topic is intense and something that is a current problem in American society. Each article has a completely different tones concerning racial profiling but both articles express the urgency of the problem.
Logical fallacies, identified in the two works, include post hoc in the MacDonald article. MacDonald claims the actions of political leaders, such as Bush and Al Sharpton, have fueled the media attention over the racial profiling problem in America. She is concluding that support by political leaders has led to the recognition of racial profiling, when, in fact, research from many credible sources has identified racial profiling as a problem of the law enforcement department, not the education of the public by political leaders. The slippery slope fallacy also exists in this article because MacDonald fears vocalizing racial profiling will result in a false belief the problem exists.
In the MacDonald article, the author does not provide logical information supported by fact. Even though she discusses the increasing escalation of violence against law enforcement she fails to recognize that this is the result of biased practices by law enforcement not the term racial profiling being publicized by politicians and civil rights leaders. The author fails to recognize there is ample research supporting the fact that racial profiling is a problem. Natarajan, on the other hand, provides a strong, credible argument based in fact concerning the problem of racial profiling. One weakness of the article is the failure of the article to provide a well-rounded article including opposing viewpoints.
In the articles, the two authors make completely different claims about racial profiling. One claims that racial profiling is a prevalent problem creating distrust between minority citizens and law enforcement which only increases the risk to violence while the other author blames the increased danger to law enforcement when dealing with minority suspects is the result of false claim about the racial profiling problem. The article written by Natarajan is more credible because it is supported by fact. MacDonald’s article is not supported by a majority of people and is not supported with credible facts. The media can use their words to persuade an audience. When the information given is biased and nonfactual it can be misleading.
MacDonald, H. (2014). Proactive Policing Is Not ‘Racial Profiling’. Retrieved from http://www.nationalreview.com/article/390148/proactive-policing-not-racial-
Matsueda, R., Drakulich, K., and Kurbin, C. (2005). The Many Colors of Crime: Inequalities of Race, Ethnicity, and Crime in America. New York, NY. New York University Press.
National Institute of Justice. (2013). Racial Profiling and Traffic Stops. Retrieved
Natarajan, R. (2015). Racial Profiling has Destroyed Public Trust in Law Enforcement: Cops are Exploiting our Weak Laws Against It. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2014/12/15/racial-profiling-has-destroyed-public-trust-in-law enforcement-cops-are-exploiting-our-weak-laws-against-it/.
United States Sentencing Commission. (2015). Federal Offenders in Prison. Retrieved from http://www.ussc.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/research-and-publications/quick-facts/Quick-Facts_BOP.pdf.