NCTE Lauds Reintroduction of End Racial Profiling Act
The End Racial Profiling Act (ERPA) was reintroduced in Congress last month by Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland (D) and Congressman John Conyers, Jr. of Michigan (D). The bill would prohibit profiling and other forms of discrimination based on race, national origin, religion, gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation by police departments that accept federal funds. ERPA was first filed in Congress 14 years ago. Now in 2015, as the country continues its needed national dialogue on policing and violence at the hands of law enforcement officers, ERPA’s refiling with gender- and LGBT-inclusive protections is more than timely and vital.
Transgender and gender non-conforming people, especially those of people of color and those living in poverty, experience the intersections of race, class and gender identity/expression when interacting with police, many on nearly a daily basis due to combined transphobic and racial profiling. The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) and the National LGBTQ Task Force’s 2011 National Transgender Discrimination Survey found that thirty-eight percent (38%) of black transgender and gender non-conforming people reported harassment, 14% reported physical assault, and 6% reported sexual assault when interacting with police officers. Half of respondents reported feeling uncomfortable seeking police assistance.
Another report, published in 2012 by Lambda Legal, found 25% of LGBT people who had contact with police experienced at least one type of misconduct.
Last year, the US Department of Justice issued updated guidance prohibiting racial profiling by federal law enforcement officers and included protections for gender, gender identity and sexual orientation—though the guidance disturbingly does not apply to airport or border security. And just weeks ago, the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing issued comprehensive and recommendations for police reforms that included addressing racial profiling and bias as well as anti-LGBT bias, and collecting better data on police interactions with the public, including the experiences of LGBT people. NCTE welcomed this report and has joined other civil rights advocates in pressing the Obama Administration and state and local governments for strong efforts to implement those reforms. If passed, ERPA would establish basic protections nationwide.
Transgender women of color are at the forefront of intersectional conversations about racial profiling. A 2014 report by the NAACP entitled “Born Suspect: Stop-and-Frisk Abuses & the Continued Fight to End Racial Profiling in America”, detailed several stories of individuals harmed by racial profiling, including Antonia, a transgender Latina woman. Antonia had been repeatedly profiled by New York City police who assumed she was a sex worker—stopping her for “walking while trans.” Antonia has been arrested multiple times and taken to detention centers; where she was striped, searched, and mocked. Antonia's story is similar to those of many transgender women of color who are falsely accused, violated, and humiliated repeatedly.
NCTE joins its allied organizations including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights (LCCHR), Street Wise and Safe (SAS), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the National LGBTQ Task Force, and the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), among many others, in supporting the passage of an LGBTQ-inclusive ERPA.