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In order to understand the Racial Profiling laws of today, we must understand our countries racial history. Colonial Virginia passed a set of laws geared towards controlling citizens who were deemed Mulatto, or Free Persons of Color. This articles gives the roots of Racial Profiling, and how they are applied today.
The documentation chronicles the subjects lives, and the affect of the laws passed to regulate their movements. The time span covered is two hundred years, and ends thirteen years before the Civil War. Through documents, transcriptions, and illustrations, the subject's lives are profiled, and examined. One aspect of their lives was the Free Negro Registry, which was a means of identifying, and tracking so called Free Persons of Color. In Colonial Virginia, all Free Persons of Color were required to show identification to any white person on demand. After the Civil War the laws were reversed, only to be revived in 1880, as Jim Crow laws (named after a black Minstrel Character). Most of the Jim Crow laws were repealed during the 1960's Civil Rights movement. Yet, they are resurfacing again in the guise of "Racial Profiling".
Although Racial Profiling, is not an Act backed by written laws, its' roots come from the laws enacted in Colonial times. Since there is no law, "On the Books", they are difficult to combat. There is no paper trail, and those who are complicit in the Act, are not admitting any wrongdoing. The laws are more or less "Understood" by Law Enforcement Agencies, passed down in department briefings, and carried out by the rank and file. With all of our modern technology, the best we can do is use a law from Colonial times. Racial Profiling is, For want of a better word, a "Gateway Act", an excuse used to detain citizens without just cause.
In Notes and Documents, Mary (born 1730-died after 1810), and Patty (born 1750-died 1830), Bowden are chronicled. They were Mulatto Indentured Servants to George Washington's family, and lived a good deal of their lives on the family Plantation. Mary was profiled at the age of seven, and taken to Court by Augustine Washington Senior. At court she was adjudged to be Mulatto, and sentenced to a thirty year Indenture. Augustine Washington Senior (George Washington's' father) was awarded her Indenture.
Mary's daughter, Patty Bowden-Jackson, was indentured to Augustine Junior upon her birth. She was born on the Washington Plantation, to Mary, and an unknown father, and was immediately identified as Mulatto. Patty was indentured to Augustine Washington Senior for thirty years, the same as her mother. The law that allowed Mary, and Patty's indenture was aimed at the offspring of mixed raced unions. The law allowed white citizens to identify these children, and bring them to the attention of the court. Once the court identified these children, they were sentenced to a thirty-year indenture. Mary, who was born in Westmoreland County, was required to leave the county after her indenture was completed. In the 1810 census for Spotsylvania County Virginia, Mary is living in Fredericksburg Virginia.
The laws of Colonial Virginia were on the books, quite different from the "Driving While Black, or Brown", laws of today. Even though todays, "Racial Profiling" Laws are not on the book, they have the same affect, to deny certain citizens the "Rights", that most take for granted. These days, Free Persons of Color, are, for all intents, and purposes covered by the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. That argument would come into play if Racial Profiling was a law on the books, which it is not. Wisely, there are no laws on the books that target certain groups of citizens, over others. Otherwise, Law Enforcement would target white males, between the ages of thirty, and fifty-five on suspicion of being Serial Killers. No Agency has the right to detain, and harass citizens for a crime that may be committed in the future.
Following is a transcription from the Free Negro Registry in Fredericksburg Virginia. The Virginia General Assembly passed the Act in 1793:
"In Pursuance of an Act of Assembly, entitled, an Act for regulating the Police of Town in this Commonwealth, and to restrain the practice of Negroes going at large, I Robert Smith Chew; Clerk of the Court of Hustings for the town and Corporation of Fredericksburg, do hereby certify, that William Lewis, a Mulatto Man aged thirty-four years, 5 feet 11 inches high, who was Born Free,-----------, Is registered in my office, agreeable to the direction of the above recited act. Certified this 8th day of August 1822, under my hand and the seal of the said Corporation. RS Chew."
The Free Negro Registry required registration every three years in Virginia counties, and cities. The information recorded was age, name, color and stature, by whom, and in what court the said negro, or Mulatto was emancipated. Most registrations went further, and recorded color (dark or light mulatto), hair texture, and color (straight, or kinky, red or black), height, marks or colors, and the name of the parents. It is the same information requested of everyone on Drivers Licenses, Birth Certificates, and other forms of Identification. These days the parents fill out the information. It was not too long ago, when a clerk made the determination of race.
They method use was to "Eyeball" the parents, and write down the race, Colored, Caucasian, Indian, or any other race they felt appropriate. These days, the Eyeball method is the most common way of Racial Profiling. The underlying theme of Racial Profiling is that certain groups have a propensity to commit crimes, such as Drug Dealing, or using. The groups targeted are Latinos, Blacks, and, (since 9/11), Middle Eastern Males. However, Eyeballing means that anyone that fits the description of those targeted, thus Italians, French, Greeks, East Indians, among others can be caught in the sweep. The insanity of Racial Profiling is the fact that Middle Easterners, Hispanics, and African Americans come in all colors, shapes, and sizes.
The difference is that almost everyone these days is required to carry some form of identification on his or her person. However, the trouble comes when you do not have Identification on your person. What are the consequences of not carrying this Identification during Colonial Days? Well, for Free Persons of Color the worse case scenario was being sold into slavery. In the least case they could get thrown in jail, until a white person came forward on their behalf. If no one came forward, you were assumed to be a slave, and sold to the highest bidder.
The targeted community is group referred to as the "Others", those who are for one reason, or another disenfranchised. These groups are considered to have no base, and are the least likely to organize when their rights are violated. They are the groups that our government uses to pass oppressive laws that will eventually affect every American. There was very little protest when an eleven-year-old black child was put on trial for murder in Michigan. However, the prosecution of two white boys for killing their father drew protest from all over the country. Many Americans seem to have a problem putting the dots together, and let the "Tail Wag The Dog", until face to face with the repercussions. Racial Profiling has not proven effective against the war on drugs, which continues unabated. The reason may be that Drug Dealers come in every race, class, and Ethnic Group. Yet, those profiled, would be, at the most, low level dealers, or users. The people who run large Drug Operations are not going to deliver drugs on a highway. They have boats, trucks, planes, and trains to move their shipments.
Newspaper Headlines Tell Stories of those caught in the Racial Profiling Net:
· Judge Rules ACLU Discrimination Suit Against Continental Airlines Can Go Forward October 18, 2002
· Airline Ejected Passengers After Another Flier Complained of "Brown-Skinned Men" Trade Bill Lets Customers Service Use Racial Profiling: Makes it Next to Impossible to Sue Agents Who Abuse Traveling Public (08/01/2002)
· ACLU Sues Four Major Airlines Over Discrimination Against Passengers (06/04/2002)
· Three Students Charge Illinois State Police with Racial Profiling in Vehicle Stop (05/08/2002)
· Court Finds RI Police in Contempt for Failing to Comply With State’s "Driving While Black" Law (10/24/2002)
In the 14th Amendment to the Constitution Section 1, it States:
"All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law, which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. "
The Fourteenth Amendment, in theory, guarantees every citizen equal protection of the law. Although the term Racial Profiling may be a new one, the Action goes back to our Colonial History.
Some cite 9/11 as the date when Middle Easterners became a targeted group, and that is erroneous. In 1993 the World Trade Center in New York was bombed for the first time. When Timothy McVey bombed the Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Middle Easterners were suspects, and were rounded up. The pressure has increased, but it did not start with 9/11. Those profiled these days are Middle Easterners, especially those with Olive Complexion, and dark curly hair. Remember they are looking for a look so anyone can be caught in that net. That means that Hispanics, Israelites, French, Greeks, Italians, Native Americans, light skinned curly headed African American, or any mixture thereof, are targets.
In fact racial profiling may abate, since that there is an out cry from the American Civil Liberty Union, and other Civil Rights Organizations. However, like many laws that are not on the books, but are "Understood", it will more then likely return, as soon as the public is on to other issues. It may return under another name, but it will have the same purpose, to contol the movements of those considered disenfranchised. Until there is some type of referendum, and a movement to abolish laws that target certain groups, be they written, or unwritten, we will remain a country stuck in the past.