Stereotyping, especially racial stereotyping,is a significant and realistic social issue. Many of the world’s greatest conflicts are a result ofracial stereotypes- today on the island of Fiji- Polynesian Fijians negatively viewIndian Fijians; and Christians and Muslims on many Indonesian islands regardeach other as corrupt. Such stereotypical views are held not for anyconsiderations of the qualities of individuals, but because of ignorant assumptions.According to Doctor John Pearn at the Royal Children’s Hospital in BrisbaneAustralia, stereotyping is defined as “the attribution of a probability that any subject in a wholepopulation or an entire class will possess a feature that an observer hasencountered in one, or a few early representatives of that class”(Pearn 59). Peoplewho have often been victims of stereotyping are impacted on a self-esteemlevel, the way they act and the way they view others that stereotype them; thisnot only perpetuates the continuation of stereotyping but also reinforcesprejudice from generation to generation. The social and cultural aspectsregarding stereotype may vary across different regions, however, racialstereotype tends to result in degraded social perceptions and culturalconflicts.
According to the theory of social disorganization postulated by Shawand McKay in 1942 , it attempts to explain the contribution of communityconditions and social structure to the increasing crime rates and degradationof moral values. Community conditions may include low standards of living,quality of life and racial discrimination which all contribute to changes inbehavior and moral decline. Although racial stereotype and profiling havebecome a norm in today’s American society, the ethical implications suggestthat negative social perceptions ,formed as a result of stereotyping, canaffect almost all facets of life, which mayalso be reinforced via technology.Profilingin Law/Crime In the last three years, the practice of incorporatingrace as a factor in determining who the police interact with has come under arduouscriticism. Racial profiling as defined by the American Civil Liberties Union is”the discriminatory practice by law enforcement officials of targetingindividuals for suspicion of crime based on the individual’s race, ethnicity,religion or national origin”. Advocates state that the practice violates thefundamental human rights and that the practice should be eliminated fromsociety.
However, the question is how does this theory relate to the ethicalprinciples and does it pose a moral dilemma? Ethics call for equal rights andrespect among all with no regard to attributes such as race, clan, ethnicity orreligion. According to Steven N. Durlauf from the University of WisconsinDepartment of Economics, the normative theory asserts that there is no set ofmorals which are completely acceptable or universal and that each culture hastheir own way of life. This theory , therefore, discredits racial profiling asit generalizes that all people share the same views about life, virtue,and morality. Thus, according to thisperspective , racial profiling in regards to law and crime is not justifiable andinstead poses negative social consequences, such as ethnic fears, lack of selfesteem, and inferiority of those targeting. Former President William J Clinton relied onsuch an argument in order to establish aPresidential action ordering an investigation into the extent to which federalagencies practice racial profiling.
He called the practice “morallyindefensible” and “in fact the opposite of good police work where actions arebased on hard facts, not stereotypes”. However, some supporters of racial profilingsuggest it as an essential part of the safety and security of the country , as HarvardLaw School professor Randall Kennedy acknowledges, “racial profiling is asensible, statistically-based tool that enables the police to focus their energiesefficiently for the purpose of providing protection against crime tolaw-abiding folk.” Although, their assumptions are based on the protection of “law abiding folk” the discriminatepractice is not justifiable since race is seemingly irrelevant to the prospectof an individual committing a crime, thus, it is unfair to create an inequalitybased on the false assumption that it does. Racial profiling not only furthersthe racial inequality of citizens, but it also promotes a negative social perceptioncreating an unjust inferiority in minority races.