'Racing racial profiling research': complicating the 'trust of rights and powers' through an analysis of racial profiling narratives
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Racial profiling, in the context of the current study, concerns the association of racial and/or ethnic status with criminality and manifests in the traffic stop. The body of knowledge now available on racial profiling has documented well the incidence of numerical disparity of traffic stops between racial groups, with motorists of color subject to intrusion by the state at greater rates than White motorists (Withrow 2005). Criminologists then turned to ‘perception’-based research to examine what makes an individual ‘perceive’ he has been racially profiled. I argue that the second wave of research is dominated by a narrow survey approach, concentrates on the microlevel police-citizen encounter, and lacks a theoretical grounding, particularly in race theory. The ‘perception’ orientation, I argue, discursively diminishes the experiences of communities of color in their experiences with the state. The current study re-examines the two main components of the ‘perception’ based research -- personal and vicarious experience with the police – to extend our understanding of the meanings behind personal and vicarious encounters with law enforcement. The current qualitative study, based on more than two dozen in-depth interviews, informs our understanding of racial profiling on a number of levels. Citizenship emerges as a dominant narrative from my respondents, thus extending the effects of the racialized traffic stop effects beyond the particularistic police-minority relationship and into larger legal and political realms not anticipated in the current literature. I find that the ‘shadow citizenship’ identity imposed by the state through racializing and criminalizing processes like racial profiling is regularly rejected by people of color through various forms of resistance to racial oppression. A third important finding concerns the complication of ‘vicarious experiences.’ My respondents indicate that they do not summarily adopt views about the police but contextualize their own experiences within understandings of collective memory. Finally, because I engage racial profiling through the theoretical perspectives of Collins, DuBois, Feagin, and Foucault, among others, and frame my overall research approach using critical race theory, the salience of race in racial profiling processes is undeniably evident, contrary to the racial vacuum dominating the current literature.
Glover, Karen Suzanne (2007). 'Racing racial profiling research': complicating the 'trust of rights and powers' through an analysis of racial profiling narratives. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from