Posted by on August 25, 2014 in Blog

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As Arab Americans, we understand the real life impact of profiling and discriminatory law enforcement practices. We know how it can range from “minor” inconveniences while traveling to destroying someone’s professional career.

The death of yet another young African American teenager demonstrates how truly grave the consequences of profiling can be. We stand in solidarity with all victims of profiling and against the militarization of police forces. We stand with those seeking justice in last week’s tragic shooting of Michael Brown, in which we saw the most extreme impact of profiling.

There is so much work to be done. We have to address how local police forces are given these extreme weaponry and equipment under the guise of protecting communities after 9/11. We need to update federal guidance and legislation to remove unlawful policies that allow profiling. A Department of Justice investigation into Michael Brown’s shooting is an important step, but it is only a first step.

Last week, the Arab American Institute signed on to a letter with over 100 organizations to call for federal action to prevent discriminatory profiling. This involves updating the 2003 Department of Justice Guidance Regarding the Use of Race by Federal Law Enforcement Agencies (Guidance). In addition, we call for Congress to pass the End Racial Profiling Act, which would prohibit the use of profiling on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin or religion by law enforcement agencies.

Federal mechanisms to prevent state and local law enforcement agencies from profiling and committing these tragedies, like the Guidance and ERPA, are the urgent priority. Attorney General Eric Holder visited Ferguson, and now it’s now time for him to act. We’ve waited too long and have seen too many tragedies.

As AAI President Jim Zogby writes in his column on Ferguson, “This is the year in which we celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Bill. Instead of being able to reflect on the distance we have traveled since 1964, the horrific events unfolding in Ferguson, Missouri only served to remind us of how far we still have to go.”

“What played out on the streets of Ferguson – the stand-off between demonstrators chanting ‘black life matters’ and ‘hands up/don't shoot’ facing well-armed police – is America's tragic unfinished business in a microcosm,” he writes. “It's not just Ferguson, its all of us who are on one side or the other of that line that has divided our nation since its beginning.”

AAI President Jim Zogby discussed his column and the impact of Ferguson, both nationally and internationally, on HuffPost Live. Watch the interview here:

Press Coverage:

Maya Shwayder, "With Ferguson raging, Arabs and Jews draw parallels with African-American community." Jerusalem Post, August 24, 2014.

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