Racial profiling is the controversial law-enforcement tactic entailing the use of race as a consideration in choosing and pursuing a suspected criminal. Proponents claim profiling is simply an acknowledgement of race as a factor in who statistically commits crime, while those opposed to it believe that it amounts to little more than institutional racism.
While now generally associated with the police and (in the United States) profiling African-Americans, the issue came into national spotlight as a practice exercised by aviation authorities to catch terrorists boarding airplanes.
Racial profiling is generally supported by the law enforcement community, though there are many notable exceptions. It is claimed that profiling based on any characteristic is a time-tested and universal police tool, and that excluding race as a factor makes no sense. Minorities commit a disproportionate amount of crime, it is claimed, so they get more attention from law enforcement. Proponents claim that racial profiling results in more effective, efficient law-enforcement.
Organizations such as NAACP and the ACLU are staunchly opposed to the very concept. Most crime is committed by whites, and profiling based on race exclusively singles out minorities such as African-Americans and those of hispanic descent. They also dispute the claim that more crime is committed by minorities. Some also take issue with the police having the prerogative to use race as a factor, as this leaves minorities little recourse if unfairly harassed by police.
In the wake of the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attack the issue of racial profiling has become topical, as the urgency of preventing terrorists from boarding aircraft has again risen. However, the gains made from targeting an ethnic group are not outweighed by the feeling of insecurity that innocent members of that group are subjected to.