Weighing the Pros and Cons of Racial Profiling

Lesson Plan on Race in America

The September 11 th terrorist attacks had a dramatic impact on the American psyche. One issue that has evolved because of this catastrophic event is the way we view race, especially in regards to racial profiling. Formerly inflicted almost exclusively on blacks, racial profiling has become a different beast. People of Middle Eastern decent have become a primary target of racial profiling. This lesson aims to address racial profiling and explain how it has evolved in light of the recent terrorist attacks in America.

Objectives: Students will:

Required Reading:

Prior to lesson, students should receive background information about Al Qaeda and the September 11 attack. Recommended readings include Part II from the Choices unit Responding to Terrorism: Challenges for Democracy, and the lesson from day two of the same unit (Interpreting Political Cartoons in the National and International Press).


1) Pros and Cons

2) Create a Foldable

In the Classroom:

Opening Hook–Begin class by making a startling announcement to your students. (i.e. The principal has just informed me that the color blue is a known gang color. In an attempt to eliminate gang activity, anybody wearing the color blue must report to the office for immediate disciplinary action.) IMPORTANT: In order to have the intended effect, secure the permission of a student beforehand who will be the pretend victim of racial profiling. Once your startling announcement is made, select this student who does not meet the criteria of the startling announcement (i.e. a student not wearing the color blue).


If this hook may be too controversial, you may start by telling a story relating the concept of racial profiling to their daily lives and routine. (See "Racial Profiling Story") The basic idea is to expose students to the biased approach that some figures of authority may have towards addressing a serious problem.


Create a Foldable–For middle-school and visual learners, you may create a foldable. Distribute a plain sheet of paper to each student (or to each group). Ask students to make the appropriate cuts to create a two-sided foldable (you may wish to prepare these sheets beforehand to save time. See Create a Foldable handout for directions). On one side of the two-sided foldable students should list any Pros of racial profiling and on the other they should list any Cons.   If desired, get the class started by listing one example for each side before beginning independent work.


Students should have a good understanding of both sides to the racial profiling situation. Assuming the students have a good understanding of how political cartoons function, ask students to create a political cartoon that is representative of their views regarding racial profiling in general. Emphasize that a students artistic skills are not as important as the expression of their opinions.


Depending on how prevalent racial profiling is in your area, you may ask students to explore the issue in more detail. Have student conduct several interviews with family and friends regarding any personal experiences they had with being racial profiled. For each interview, students should write a detailed account which explains the interviewee's personal experience.

This lesson was developed by:

Doug Craig–Windham High School, Willimantic, Connecticut

Adan Alfonso Perales–Edcouch-Elsa Junior High School, Edcouch, Texas

Heather Quagliaro–Metropolitan Learning Center, Bloomfield, Connecticut

Raul Valdez–Edcouch-Elsa High School, Edcouch, Texas