Racial Profiling and Trans People

 By Ryan Durgin, National Center for Transgender Equality

It’s a disturbing reality that today people of color often cannot drive down the highway or walk down the street without fear of being stopped by police just because of the color of their skin. Trans people of color are especially at risk as their gender expression or identification may not fit what law enforcement officials expect. This often leads to law enforcement classifying Trans people of color as “suspicious” or outside of what they consider to be the norm.

This then leads to high rates of arrest, harassment, physical and sexual assault.

 The National Transgender Discrimination Surveyrevealed shocking statistics on the experiences of Trans people with law enforcement:

  • Thirty-eight percent of Black respondents had been harassed by the police compared to 18% of their white counterparts.
  • Forty-one percent of Black respondents reported being held in a cell because of their gender identity alone compared to 4% of their white counterparts.
  • Forty-seven percent of Black and Latino/a respondents were treated disrespectfully by law enforcement compared to 25% of their white counterparts.

 This kind of profiling has hurt thousands of Black and Latino/a people in New York City with their stop-and-frisk laws, profiling by race. Last year, 87% of the people that New York police officers stopped were Black or Latino/a. In 2010 the Department of Justice (DOJ) opened an investigation of the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) following numerous complaints from black and transgender community members and advocates about harassment, sexual violence, and arrest without cause. Following the investigation, the DOJ released a report stating that the NOPD was exhibiting “unconstitutional conduct.” Even though the DOJ classified this racial and gender profiling as unconstitutional in their report, we still see it happening in places like New York today.

 This month, national LGBT equality groups joined racial justice and civil rights organizations to rally against New York City’s discriminatory stop-and-frisk policy. While law enforcement officials and Mayor Bloomberg fail to convince us that policies like this keep our communities safe, racial profiling continues to make it difficult for Trans people of color to live their lives. The only thing stop-and-frisk protects are harmful racial and gender stereotypes.

 This is why the National Center for Transgender Equality, along with other Trans and LGB equality groups, support the passage of the End Racial Profiling Act (ERPA). If ERPA became law, it would ban racial and religious profiling and provide training for law enforcement on appropriate responses in police arrest and detainment procedures.

Ryan Durgin, is a communications intern with The National Center for Transgender Equality, a social justice organization dedicated to advancing equality for transgender people through advocacy, collaboration, and empowerment. Check out our blog, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitterfor more information and updates.

This blog does not necessarily reflect the views of Rights Working Group.

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