Christina Abraham, CAIR-Chicago’s Civil Rights Coordinator, and Fadi Farhan, Director of Governmental Relations, took part in a meeting on June 24 at the Chicago Police Department (CPD) Headquarters in which the topic of discussion was racial profiling during traffic stops in the city. In 2003, then-State Senator Barack Obama urged the Illinois legislature to instruct policing agencies to chronicle their traffic stops for the years 2004 to 2007. Since then, officers are required to record the reason for a stop, the race of the driver, and the citations or searches involved. The CPD released their department’s statistics at the meeting. According to the data presented, the CPD stopped 15% more minority (non-white) drivers relative to the number of minority drivers present in the city, according to a Northwestern University study of the data.
Farhan and Abraham saw fundamental problems with the method of collection of the data and the term “racial profiling”. In the post-9/11 era, many American Muslims, regardless of race or ethnicity, have been targeted for traffic stops. CAIR-Chicago believes that the now-obsolete term, “racial profiling”, should be changed to “bias-based policing”, a broader term encompassing the wider discriminatory nature of the problem. Abraham stated, “The data collected, while telling, does not include any parameters that would describe traffic stops of, for example, a Caucasian Muslim woman wearing the headscarf (hijab) or any man wearing a head piece such as a kufi or a turban.” Farhan added, “The US Census Bureau’s definition of ‘white’ includes Middle Easterners and North Africans, and therefore, the data is much less likely to show profiling of these groups and includes them in the ‘white’ category, skewing the results of the study. The classic race definitions have the potential to make the study altogether less useful for combating a problem that no longer, in the post-9/11 era, just affects the African-American and Latino populations in the city and the nation.”
Groups present at the meeting included Rainbow/PUSH Coalition and the Reverend Jesse Jackson, Sr., the American Civil Liberties Union, League of United Latin American Citizens, Amnesty International, and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. Also in attendance were Kwame Raoul, State Senator of the 13th District, and Ken Dunkin, State Representative of the 5th District.
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