Racial Profiling: Driving While Black

SAMPLE EXCERPT:

First, it is axiomatic that social work practice "starts where the client is.".... Second, the perspective of the individual, group, or organization is important because social workers often have the opportunity to give voice to or to recognize and legitimate clients' concerns.... Finally, the perspective of clients is significant because the fundamental goals of our profession are to promote human well-being and social justice.

This balance between individual well-being and institutional/governmental goals is not achieved in our current American mode of legal justice, which either seeks a perfect "balance" between the two sides or, in the adverserial system, goes to one side or the other -- with no underlying normative mandates to tip the balance.

In contrast, social work theory balances the individual and social justice intests by promoting social justice and social change, but on behalf of clients. "To promote social justice, our response to individuals must consistently focus not only on their perspective, but also on their perspective in the multilayered social context in which they live. The voice of service users -- our clients -- is significant because it helps us stay true to our purpose, to live up to our ideals and standards."

Therefore, social workers' decisions must be based in their clients' perspectives.

Social workers should be allowed to intercede in the judicial process to work on behalf of suspected profiling victims, in order to hear the perspective of the accused.

Social workers are often the only persons who are there to hear what their clients have to say, rather than talking at them or simply offering solutions based on cookie-cutter theories.

While many in the social work field espouse "empowerment," "perspectives of consumers" -- i.e., clients - have been basically ignored altogether.

Social workers should also serve the important function of giving voice to silenced "victims" of the "driving while Black" problem. "Social workers have access to those who may have been silenced, ignored, or diminished by social institutions or practices. At the same time, they have access to the social institutions that can bring recognition and resources to their concerns." Because the problem is often tied to search & seizure violations at the hands of law enforcement, for example, social workers in court proceedings might, for example, be able to give credence to victims' accounts of racial profiling and the lack of a probable cause for an arrest.

Another example of social workers giving voice to those who are profiled while driving Black would be pointing out that unconscious racism may have contributed to the police officer both noticing and then pulling over the "suspect."

When state actors openly expressed their racist views, it was easy to identify and label the invidious nature of their actions. But today, with some notable exceptions, most racist behavior is not openly expressed. More significantly, some racist behavior is committed unconciously, and many who engage in this behavior are well-intentioned people who would be appalled by the notion that they would be seen as behaving in a racist or discriminatory manner."

The ultimate role of the social worker in this context would be that of third party aide, but always serving on the side of the accused. As one scholar observes, social workers can - and should - serve multiple roles on behalf of the client, such as "support person, educator, mediator, therapist... And expert witness."

In short, social workers can serve the role of a third party aide in conflicts between law enforcement officers and racially profiled victims.

Harris, David A. "The Stories, The Statistics, and The Law: Why 'Driving While Black' Matters." Minnesota Law Review. 84. 1999: 279.

Bowden, Mark & Fazlollah, Mark. "Lying Police Officer Never Counted on FBI." Philadelphia Inquirer. September 12, 1995: A1.

Worden, Robert E. "The Causes of Police Brtuality: Theory and Evidence on Police Use of Force.," in Police Violence. Geller & Hans Toch, eds. (1996).

Johnson, Kevin R. "The Case Against Race Profiling in Immigration Enforcement." Washington University Law Quarterly 78. (2000).

Maclin, Tracy. "Race and the Fourth Amendment." Vanderbilt Law Review. 1998: 333.

Roberts, Dorothy E., "Crime, Race and Reproduction." Tulane Law Review 67. 1993: 1951.

Gardner, F. "Design Evaluation:Illuminationg Social Value Work for Better Outcomes." Social Work 45 (2001). 176-82

Glisson, C. The Art of the State of Social Work Research: Implications for Mental Health. Research on Social Work Practice 5. 1995: 201-2

Marsh, Jeanne. "Learning from…