Rethinking the ‘Gold Standard’ of Racial Profiling: §287(g), Secure Communities and Spatially Discrepant Police Power

10/04/2018 - 3:00pm to 4:30pm
Lucille Little Library, Niles Gallery
Speaker(s) / Presenter(s): 
Mathew Coleman, The Ohio State University

In this talk I focus on the routine disappearing act of racial profiling, or racialized pretext in police work, especially with respect to §287(g) and Secure Communities enforcement. My goal—in conversation with critical, social justice-oriented immigration scholarship—is to bring to light methodological difficulties related to proving racial profiling.  How it is that critical researchers understand racial profiling as the object of their research, and how might they go about substantiating racial profiling in the field?  Can racial profiling be made a straightforward object of problematization, and if not, why?  I am particularly interested in how racial profiling can be so self-evidently at the core of programs like §287(g) and Secure Communities and yet how racialized law enforcement decisions and tactics are so often inscrutable—and difficult to prove—in the context of routine police work. 

Building on original fieldwork findings on roadblocks and traffic stops by §287(g) and Secure Communities agencies, I dissect the differences between racially discrepant police work and racial profiling, and argue that chasing the ‘gold standard’ of racial profiling leaves racially discrepant policing on the table as an apparently unproblematic, and perhaps even defensible, outcome of policing. As such, I argue that critical scholars should instead re-focus on the problem of racially discrepant police practices and in particular on the routine devaluation of non-white spaces in police work.