THE BLOG

An Open Letter to the President on Race

02/24/2014 01:18 pm ET | Updated Apr 26, 2014

Dear Mr. President,

Do you remember any of your campaign ads from your 2000 Congressional campaign? I'm thinking specifically of a radio ad touting your support for a bill that required police officers to log the ethnicity of every driver they pulled over.

In the ad, you said, "Racial profiling is not only wrong and degrading: it's dangerous and can lead to unexpected confrontations. Not only that, it erodes confidence in law enforcement."

You've spoken against the humiliating practice of racial profiling many times since then. So why does your administration continue to discriminate against Americans because of the color of their skin or the way they dress?

From stop-and-frisk in New York to Sheriff Arpaio in Arizona, you can't deny our country continues to struggle with this issue. And despite countless stories of innocent Americans accused of wrongdoing just because of the way they look, your administration has yet to revise the Justice Department guidance regarding the use of race in federal law enforcement issued by Attorney General John Ashcroft more than a decade ago.

I know you alone can't stop racial profiling. It's going to take a lot of change in the hearts and minds of all Americans and from all levels of government before we can add racial profiling to the list of shameful practices our country has left in the past. But here's the truth: By eliminating the practice on the federal level, you can send a message to state and local officials that racial profiling has no place in law enforcement.

If you're going to succeed, you have to make sure you protect ALL individuals from harassment because of who they are. That means extending the guidelines to cover race, ethnicity, religion, national origin, or sex (including gender identity and expression) to any degree and closing the loopholes for national security and border integrity investigations. They send the wrong message to all law enforcement officers that racial profiling is sometimes okay, even though you and I both know that's not the case.

It's long past time for you and your administration to end this humiliating, ineffective, and unlawful practice. Racial profiling is at odds with our shared American values of fairness and justice, and it has no place in federal law enforcement.

The ball's in your court, Mr. President.

Respectfully,
Laura