In the United States, race influences human behavior and attitudes, family life, income, education, politics, and crime. Racism, ideas about superiority and equality, and the national preoccupation with race divides the United States into two parts, as suggested by the title of a popular book: Two Nations, Black and White, Separate, Hostile, Unequal (Hacker 1992). Although blacks are currently America's largest racial minority group, the official and unofficial racial differentiation in the United States goes beyond the simple black/white division. The 2000 U.S. Census used six racial categories: (1) American Indian or Alaska Native; (2) Black (or African American); (3) Asian; (4) Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander; (5) White; and (6) Some Other Race (Bayley, 2007).
These six official racial categories are grossly oversimplified: Each of these consists of a large number of subgroups with often widely divergent national, ethnic, or racial backgrounds. Although in popular language, race and ethnicity are often used interchangeably, they have different meanings; ethnicity refers to a shared culture (language, religion, custom), whereas race implies a presumed common genetic heritage (based on visible physical characteristics such as skin color). Again oversimplifying for the purposes of registration, the U.S. Census uses two categories for ethnicity: “Hispanic or Latino,” and “Not Hispanic or Latino.”
Major changes had an impact on policing between the 1960s and the 1980s. The U.S. Supreme Court issued multiple rulings that shaped the daily activities of police officers, and politically appointed commissions recommended many solutions, including better training of officers and citizen oversight of agencies (Benjamin, 2006). The hiring of minority racial/ethnic group members by policing agencies was also recommended and was seen as vital to break the domination of White racial/ethnic groups over police agencies and reduce minority group distrust of the police. Affirmative action and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidelines were put in place to ensure that police departments became statistically representative of the communities they served.
Perceptions of racism or prejudice are based largely on the victim's perspective. Admittedly, an individual's perception may not be objectively accurate. All of us develop perceptions of other persons based on misunderstandings or miscommunications. Regardless of their lack of objective reliability, however, perceptions can and do affect an individual's behavior and eventually become an important element of public opinion. Because of this, researchers should include qualitative measures of the perceptions of motorists as part of a comprehensive investigation into the dynamics of race-based policing. This can be achieved through the use of either general or follow-up “quality control” surveys that ask questions relating to the officer's demeanor (Blumstein, 2008).
Like African Americans, Hispanics (who can be classified as belonging to different races) as a group are relatively powerless (politically, culturally, and economically); they have been (or are) seen as “different,” often threatening, problematic, or deviant; they have been subject to discriminatory laws and regulations, prejudice, and negative stereotyping; they have been (or are) the focus of public fear and violence; and they have been (or are) the ...