Institutional Racism (Participation)

Published September 17, 2014 by djlwsu

You really can get pulled over for driving while black, federal statistics show

 September 9

One in every 10 American drivers was pulled over for a traffic violation in 2011, according to a Justice Department report released last year. As The Washington Post reports this week, traffic stops for minor infractions such as speeding or equipment violations are increasingly used as a pretext for officers to seize cash from drivers. So it’s worth asking: Who’s getting pulled over, and for what?

The Justice Department statistics, based on the Police-Public Contact Survey, show that “relatively more black drivers (12.8%) than white (9.8%) and Hispanic (10.4%) drivers were pulled over in a traffic stop during their most recent contact with police.” Or, to frame it another way: A black driver is about 31 percent more likely to be pulled over than a white driver, or about 23 percent more likely than a Hispanic driver. “Driving while black” is, indeed, a measurable phenomenon.

It’s worth noting, however, that American Indian drivers are even more likely to be pulled over (15 percent). And since these are only national-level figures, rates are likely to be higher or lower depending on local law enforcement practices.

People of different races get pulled over for different reasons. While speeding is the most common reason for a traffic stop among all races, white people (50.1 percent) are more likely to get pulled over for speeding than blacks (37.7 percent) or Hispanics (39.2 percent). Relative to other races, blacks are more likely to get pulled over for vehicle defects or record checks. Perhaps most troubling from a civil liberties perspective, nearly five percent of blacks weren’t given any reason for why they were stopped, compared with 2.6 percent of whites and 3.3 percent of Hispanics.

White drivers were significantly less likely to be searched than black or Hispanic drivers. This comports with the Post’s investigation, whichsuggests that most of the drivers subject to searches and cash seizures are minorities.

Perhaps not surprisingly, there were racial differences in the perceived fairness of traffic stops. The survey showed that 67.5 percent of black motorists stopped by police said the reason for the stop was legitimate, compared with 73.6 percent of Hispanics and 83.6 percent of whites. In general, people of all races were more likely to say the stop was legitimate when the officer who pulled them over was of the same race.

Overall, these numbers shed some light on how black and white communities can have starkly different views of the law enforcement agencies that serve them. Black drivers are 31 percent more likely to be pulled over than whites; they are more than twice as likely to be subject to police searches as white drivers; and they are nearly twice as likely to not be given any reason for the traffic stop, period. These numbers undergird much of the racial differences in responses to events like last month’s shooting and protests in Ferguson, Mo.


8 comments on “Institutional Racism (Participation)

  • Much like we were saying in class, many of these cases were based on the biased opinions many have due to the media. Along with that I believe that police are trained to look out for trouble and search lower income level areas, which statistically is typically african-american or multi-cultural ethnicities living in these areas. So in turn maybe the possibility of african americans being pulled over correlates with the areas they are living in. However the media also sets it up that African Americans are the ones doing all of the suspicious business which may be another reason, and potentially a subconscious one too, that african americans are searched mores and pulled over more.


    • I agree with this comment because the media does have an effect on our lives and the way people think.They have african americans and latinos do look more suspicious than others but thats only because of our media again. Also, they do advertise that most minorties live in low income housing but it shouldn’t be the main purpose of them being pulled over more than others.


  • How this about more than individuals…. institutional rather than individual biases. Much of the data is on highways and freeways so is this about police targeting particular areas.

    Here are a few more articles –


    Two important pull quotes here:

    “Quantitative evidence reported in several states confirms this nationwide data: A study in Arizona shows that during 2006-2007, the state highway patrol was significantly more likely to stop African Americans and Hispanics than Whites on all the highways studied, while Native Americans and persons of Middle Eastern descent were more likely to be stopped on nearly all the highways studied. The highway patrol was 3.5 times more likely to search a stopped Native American than a White, and 2.5 times more likely to search a stopped African American or Hispanic. The Arizona study also shows that racial profiling is counterproductive and a misallocation of scarce law enforcement resources. Although Native Americans, Hispanics, Middle Easterners, and Asians were far more likely to be stopped and searched than Whites on Arizona’s highways, Whites who were searched were more likely to be transporting drugs, guns, or other contraband. While African Americans were twice as likely as Whites to be stopped and searched, the rates of contraband seizures for the two groups were comparable”

    “It is implausible that higher frisk and search rates are justified by higher minority criminality, when these frisks and searches are substantially less likely to uncover weapons, drugs or other types of contraband. We also find that the black arrest disparity was 9 percentage points lower when the stopping officer was black than when the stopping officer was not black. Similarly, the Hispanic arrest disparity was 7 percentage points lower when the stopping officer was Hispanic than when the stopping officer was a non-Hispanic white. Taken as a whole, these results justify further investigation and corrective action.”


  • I personally believe that the cops have no right to search a car for no reason. If the cop had reasonable suspicion that something illegal was going on inside the car then, no matter what the color of the driver, the cop has every reason to check the vehicle. Checking a vehicle based on the drivers color or ethnic background is uncalled for and racist. I can see how in lower-class towns or neighborhoods their would be a higher level of suspicion because they tend to look not as put together, but I still think that police searches should be made based on the activity going on inside the vehicle rather than the drivers color. I have a personal connection between myself and this article. In my hometown their is a lower class Hispanic neighborhood a block away from a higher-middle class white neighborhood. The Hispanic neighborhood gets checked on by the cops every night unlike the white neighborhood where the cops never set foot. Is it reasonable doubt on check the Hispanic neighborhood because they are ‘Hispanic’ and don’t make as much money? Or is it racist? I personally believe it is racist. Illegal activity goes on everywhere, if the cops are going to check the Hispanic neighborhood then they should check the white neighborhood too, and same with the cars.


  • The data that is given in this article definitely proves non-whites of all sorts are pulled over more often than people who are white. These numbers are the result of institutional racism. Although people of color are being pulled over (whether legitimate or not) more often, that does not justify higher crime rates among them. Based on the data/suggestions given in the former comments, white people typically have just as much crime if not more. The stereotypes and criticisms that have resulted as branch off of institutional racism then affect people nationwide. African Americans are typically seen as a criminal more than white people. So would people who have a “criminalized look” to them be less likely to have insurance, speed often, etc.? So maybe that’s why police officers everywhere are pulling over so many people not of color.


  • My problem with this article is the fact that the author kept saying the statistics are showing this and that. Yet when we look at the actual numbers and not at the graphs themselves, we see that there is not even a five percent difference between the categories, therefore giving it no statistical evidence to suggest anything is out of the ordinary. For all we know these numbers are just following a random distribution and it is all coincidence that they ended up they way they did. I mean come on Native Americans are the highest percent getting pulled over, yet no one is talking about that, the author is focused solely on white being less likely to be pulled over by 3 percent. Think about that number 3 percent, by no means does that have any statistical significance. And the author knows that so he twist some numbers in order to say 31 percent more likely; well he can try to manipulate the data all he wants the fact still holds that there is no evidence to suggest anything from these numbers.


    • Brandon – you are assuming that there an equal number of drivers, which there isn’t. There is more to this data and in a short article all of that isn’t going to be able to be noted. That is why the author notes that black drivers are 31 percent more likely to be pulled over. You do raise important point in terms of how this data is presented and discussed in public discourse. I encourage you to all read the many articles that I posted above as well as the links that the author provides for greater clarity

      I also think the article is pushing us to think about why there are racial differences in terms of perceptions of police. The article is saying that experiences with the institution are starkly different; that is example of racial filter.

      Why do you think there is minimal public discourse regarding native Americans and racial profiling?


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