Could the entertainment industry be causing Latinos to be unfairly stereotyped as drug traffickers?
The idea of the Latino drug trafficker is so firmly embedded in American mindsets that the aggressive drug dealer and evil South American cartel are considered two of the most well-known TV tropes. Latino drug smugglers and dealers are also all over the silver screen these days -- and have been for a while.
As one Hollywood giant stated about the image of Latino cartels and Mexican gangs in movies, "It's become a genre. You can see it. They're becoming the new Westerns." Unlike Westerns; however, they're not focused on the dangers of the past, like marauding tribes of Native Americans and despicable cattle rustlers -- they're focused on what many people perceive as a real-life threat. They're pointing to an entire group of people who are present in the here-and-now and essentially announcing, "Here are the people you need to fear. They're the ones bringing all the drugs into your country."
That kind of message, repeated over and over in media and entertainment, tends to sink into the subconscious and affect the way people think. There's no reason to believe that it wouldn't affect the way that the average police officer thinks when he or she approaches a car full of Latinos during a traffic stop.
If you happen to be Latino, you need to be conscious of the potential bias. Latinos are more likely to be arrested than whites and more likely to serve time if convicted. If you're stopped on the road, it's important to understand your rights and make sure that you don't give police permission to search your car -- even if you think you have nothing to hide.
If you are arrested on a drug trafficking charge, you also need to realize that you could be treated with bias in the court. Unintentionally or not, Latinos have become the "bogeymen" of the drug trade -- and that could affect how you are treated by a judge or jury.
If you've been charged with a drug crime, make sure that you have an experienced attorney on your side.