What The Racial And Identity Profiling Act Can Teach Everyone About Bias
California law enforcement agencies are now collecting information about the race and identity of people they stop. The intent is to track whether officers exhibit bias. In part two of our series on this new regulation K PBS reporter Teran Monteux explores how it can address racial profiling and what the law can teach the rest of us. Since the summer of 2014 Michael Brown 18 year old black man had been killed by a white police officer in Ferguson Missouri. Community members protested in the streets. Months later it was a 12 year old African-American boy. Tamir Rice in Cleveland. And later a black man on Staten Island named Eric Garner. Meanwhile here in San Diego Assemblywoman Shirley Weber was with her son watching this all unfold on TV. He says mom you know what we are in the streets and just raising issues. But the reality is you and Speaker Acton's have the juice. Is this what exactly he said. You have the juice you said and you can do something about it. She did the law she sponsored mandates California officers track what they think is the race ethnicity and other information about the people they stop a bill to combat racial profiling that requires officers to silently judge people they stop may seem counter productive. But Weber says this is key to identifying and addressing bias. You look at a person and they're really multiracial but you stopped them because they look Hispanic. OK. Or you stop them because they look African-American or they hear this rap and you think they're a Muslim. So the the issue is not so much what we are it's what people think we are. And we stop them based on that. The San Diego Museum of Man features an exhibit on race asking are we so different. Education Specialist Sidney Garcia teaches visitors about their bias. He said the first step is awareness the second step is taking action. Garcia says sometimes we need help recognizing our biases whereas the implicit ones are the ones that we aren't aware of until somebody. Brings them out. For it so we start to be more self-conscious and self reflects on how we resolved the world. For example her last name. Garcia and lighter skin color might lead you to believe she's Hispanic. I say black or African-American. Were you surprised by that. Garcia says she hears that often when people meet me for the first time I go I wasn't expecting that or I wouldn't guess that are you sure. She says. That surprise is bias and you may not even realize it. Their face. So they go. Like that. And some of our kids do that too. And that's a bias. That's you're not aware of you're really control your face. But that's your internalized vision of what you expected somebody black African. American to look like. Matching. What you got she says. Expectations of a person's appearance or personality have been shaped through out history. She points to an old IQ test that gave soldiers two minutes to look at modified pictures like a bowler with no bowling ball or a house with no chimney and asked them to draw what was missing. But for people who grew up in an area without bowling or had different looking homes they scored poorly. So you have to emigrating from a third country. We all do poorly on this test. So the. Bodies. Oh well that's because this group of people is less intelligent for law enforcement. The racial and identity Profiling Act mandates officers recognize their perceptions by logging them. In the law created an advisory board to help address them. Cochair Andrea Guerrero says the board will use the perception data to inform policy and training recommendations. But if officer an officer me are. In the same beat. That. And we're still seeing a disparity then we need to look deeper. Years of experience help us understand this training issue is this you know a different kind of justice a generational issue she says the law was a grand step toward accountability for a group that exercises significant authority in order for us to grant that authority. We need to be vigilant about how it's used. Weber says even her son was impressed. He thinks I'm probably the most powerful woman he's ever met which is unusual because he didn't think that before and he's in his 30s. But the law applies only to police. Realizing your bias is still optional for you.
Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, a Democratic legislator from San Diego, said she watched the national movement unfold on TV with her son.
"He says, 'Mom, you know what, we’re in the streets and just raising issues, but the reality is you and Speaker Atkins have the juice' — that’s exactly what he said, he said, 'the juice' — 'and you can do something about it,'" Weber said in an interview with KPBS.
The law she later sponsored that the Legislature passed in 2015 established a statewide system of data collection and analysis to identify and address any potential bias among law enforcement but also highlights a process of awareness that the public can employ to confront their own biases.
The law requires officers to document what they think is the race, ethnicity, gender and other information about the people they stop. Weber said tracking these perceptions is key to identifying any instances of profiling by police.
“You look at a person and they’re really multiracial but you stopped them because they look Hispanic, or you stopped them because they look African American or their head is wrapped and they look Muslim, so the issue is not what we are, it’s what people think we are and we stop them based on that," Weber said.
The San Diego Museum of Man's Sydney Garcia, who was not commenting on the law directly, said questioning your perceptions of others helps you recognize bias.
Museum of Man Trainings
The Museum of Man offers guided tours through its exhibit, Race: Are We So Different, that includes discussions and workshops around race and identity. For more information, visit museumofman.org/race or email email@example.com. Registration begins Aug. 6.
"The implicit ones are the ones we aren't aware of until somebody brings them out or until we start to be more self-conscious and self-reflect about how we move about in the world," said Garcia, an anthropologist and education specialist on race, equity and social justice.
For example, she said her last name and light-colored skin leads many people to believe she is Hispanic, but she identifies as black, referencing her "multi-ancestral" background.
“When people meet me for the first time they go, 'Oh I wasn’t expecting that,' or 'I wouldn’t have guessed that,' or 'Are you sure?' kind of questions," she said.
Garcia said that feeling of surprise demonstrates a bias, and she helps community members uncover that at the museum's exhibit, "Race: Are We So Different?"
She said expectations of a person’s appearance or personality have been shaped throughout history. She pointed to a past IQ test that gave soldiers two minutes to look at modified pictures, including a bowler with no bowling ball and a house without a chimney, and draw what was missing. But she said for people who grew up in an area without bowling or had different-looking homes, they scored poorly.
"Say you have a bunch of people emigrating from a certain country, they all do poorly on this test, and the thought is, 'Oh that’s because this group of people is less intelligent,'" she said.
Garcia said addressing these or other misconceptions requires both awareness and taking action.
For law enforcement, the Racial and Identity Profiling Act mandates officers realize their perceptions by logging them, and the law also created an advisory board to help take action, if necessary.
Co-Chair Andrea Guerrero said the board will use the perception data to inform policy and training recommendations. She said the group will be looking for how the demographics of people stopped by law enforcement agents compare to the demographics of the area the officers patrol.
“If officer A and officer B are in the same beat and we’re still seeing a disparity, then we need to look deeper," said Guerrero, who also leads the nonprofit Alliance San Diego.
She said the law was a grand step toward accountability for a group that exercises significant authority.
“In order for us to grant that authority we need to be vigilant how it’s used," she said.
Weber says even her son was impressed with the law's passing.
"He thinks I’m the most powerful woman he’s ever met which is unusual because he didn’t think that before and he’s in his 30s," she said.
But the law applies only to police. Realizing your bias is still optional. For you, there’s the Museum of Man.