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This lesson plan is supplemented with material from

Lesson plan: An end to racial profiling?

March 2, 2001
Web posted at: 5:32 PM EST (2232 GMT)

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Students will be able to:

  • Explain what racial profiling means.
  • Write journal entries from the perspective of a minority and determine if the practice of racial profiling still exists.
  • Predict behaviors and practices that might reduce racial profiling and prejudice.


National Council for the Social Studies
X. Civic ideals and practices

High school students increasingly recognize the rights and responsibilities of citizens in identifying societal needs, setting directions for public policies and working to support individual dignity and the common good. They learn by experience how to participate in community service and political activities and how to use the democratic process to influence public policy.

Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL)

8. Students will understand historical and cultural influences on literary works.

Materials, "A move to combat racial profiling"
Internet access
John Howard Griffin's "Black Like Me"
Newsmagazines that examine racial profiling and discrimination problems

Suggested time

One class period


1. Ask students: Who is John Ashcroft? Inform them Ashcroft is the U.S. attorney general, appointed by President George W. Bush. The attorney general, as head of the Justice Department and chief law enforcement officer of the federal government, represents the United States in legal matters generally and gives advice and opinions to the president and to the heads of the executive departments of the government.

2. Have students read the article "A move to combat racial profiling"
and ask the following:

  • What practice does Ashcroft want banned? What is racial profiling? In the article, Ashcroft said that racial profiling undermines the trust between law enforcement authorities and the public. What do you think he means? During his Senate confirmation hearings, the Democrats accused Ashcroft of being insensitive to minorities. How do you think these earlier criticisms affect his credibility regarding any legislation on this front?
  • Why has Ashcroft requested a "legislative product" on racial profiling? How do you think this effort will help him obtain his goal? According to the article, what is Bush's opinion on the problem of racial profiling? What example does Ashcroft cite for illustrating human consequences of racial profiling?

3. Explain to the class that the 14th Amendment states, "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." Have a class discussion about whether or not this amendment protects the rights of minorities.

4. Discuss "Black Like Me," a book about a white journalist who travels as a black man for six weeks through the South in the 1950s. Select several passages from the book to share with the class that show how drastically the same man was treated when his skin color changed from white to black. Use these examples to illustrate and discuss how individuals can be guilty of prejudice, a factor in racial profiling.


1. Have each student select a minority, such as African-Americans, Native Americans, Hispanics, Asian Americans or other groups. Direct students to learn some things about minorities that differ from middle-class white U.S. culture and social patterns and could therefore contribute to the groups being viewed with prejudice. Students can write journal entries from the perspective of this minority traveling through the United States in 2001. Have students present their journal entries to the class.

2. If racial profiling is legally prohibited, will it bring an end to the practice? Even though the 15th Amendment gave blacks the right to vote, it wasn't until President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that all African-Americans were ensured the right to vote in the United States, because many Southern states previously erected barriers before allowing blacks to vote. Similarly, what do students think it will take to help police and others disregard skin color when determining a person's innocence or guilt? Students can draw up proposals of actions, programs or behaviors that they believe could reduce racist judgments. You might want them to consider their own school or community as they develop their ideas.


Students can research specific examples of racial profiling and write brief essays determining why racial profiling still exists and why it should be banned.


Students can analyze Holt, Rinehart and Winston's "Urban unrest" chart and select one city that is shown to have a large number of racial disturbances and one city that does not. Students can analyze and give examples explaining why some cities are more prone to racial disturbances than others.

Discussion/activity: Ashcroft nomination
January 11, 2001
Discussion/activity: Racially motivated crimes
February 2, 2001
Books: 'Black Like Me' celebrates 40th anniversary
January 11, 2001

American Civil Liberties Union
ACLU rating for former U.S. Sen. John Ashcroft
Racial Profiling: Prejudice or protocol?
Racial profiling in America
Movie: "Black Like Me"

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