Racial Profiling: They Said it Was Against the Law!

31 Pages Posted: 13 Jul 2007

See all articles by Oscar Gandy

Oscar Gandy

University of Pennsylvania

Lemy Baruh

Kadir Has University - Faculty of Communication


This article examines the media frames and legislative responses of eighteen states in the United States to the use of racial profiling and a technology of modern policing. Racial profiling is characterized as a troubled technology because of the way in which the use of racial identification as an index of criminality contributes to the cumulative disadvantage that shapes the life chances of African Americans. An analysis of media coverage of legislative debates enables an assessment of the extent to which the technology of racial profiling is characterized as an immoral act of discrimination that should be made illegal across the United States. The dominant policy frame is one of uncertainty and caution. The strategic use of quotation marks around references to racial profiling in some newspapers reflects unwillingness on the part of the news media to even acknowledge the existence of a problem or a basis for concern. The analysis of statutes and newspaper discourse reveals the ways in which particular arguments and rationales are associated with readily identified group interests opposed to, or in support of, the use of racial profiling. The article concludes that many in the public believe that race can be used as an index of criminality. The public does not understand that the use of race as a predictor of risk, ironically, tends to amplify the risks to the operation of the criminal justice system.

Keywords: race, racial profiling, discrimination, prediction, risk classification

Suggested Citation

Gandy, Oscar and Baruh, Lemy, Racial Profiling: They Said it Was Against the Law!. University of Ottawa Law & Technology Journal, Vol. 3, No. 1, 2006, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=999718

Oscar Gandy (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania ( email )

Philadelphia, PA 19104-6370
United States

Lemy Baruh

Kadir Has University - Faculty of Communication ( email )


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