Racial Profiling at Mall of America?

Illustration for article titled Racial Profiling at Mall of America?

NPR reports that although the nation's leaders have insisted since the Sept. 11 attacks that programs looking out for terrorists should focus on behavior and not ethnicity, nonwhite patrons of Minneapolis' Mall of America are more likely to be deemed "suspicious."


NPR News Investigations and the Center for Investigative Reporting analyzed suspicious-activity reports of incidents at the enormous mall. The documents suggest that almost two-thirds of the "suspicious" people whom the mall reported to local police were minorities. Compare that with the U.S. population, which is more than 70 percent white. And whites account for 85 percent of the population in Minnesota.

Mall executives wouldn't discuss the findings with NPR, but government hearings and press reports cite the mall's program as a model for fighting terrorism.

Minnesota's Department of Human Rights has been concerned about the mall's security program, in part because of stories like this, many of which are detailed in the NPR report: Four years ago, the mall's guards reported a man to the police because he was "observing others while writing things down on a notepad as though he was conducting surveillance."

He was actually a musician, killing time while waiting for a friend. He filed a complaint with the state of Minnesota, charging that the mall targeted him because he's black. The Human Rights Department investigated, and it concluded that the evidence does suggest that the Mall of America "subjects racial minorities to heightened scrutiny," which the department said would be "illegal."

Juliette Kayyem, a Harvard professor who is a former assistant secretary at the Department of Homeland Security, told NPR, "I can't sort of say this is de facto profiling. I would be concerned about it."

Read more and listen to the story at NPR.

In other news: New Black American Girl Doll: Not a Slave.