Thinking Clearly About Profiling

ir rational

There is nothing more painful for me at this stage in my life than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start to think about robbery and then look around and see it’s somebody white and feel relieved.

                                                                         Reverend Jesse Jackson   NY Times, 12-12-93


Profiling is a very unsavory activity, we are told.  There are marches against it and laws against it.  Let’s consider what profiling is, starting with the definition of three terms relevant to the discussion :

profiling: the act or process of extrapolating information about a person based on known traits or tendencies; the act of suspecting or targeting a person on the basis of observed characteristics or behavior.

discrimination: The ability or power to see or make fine distinctions; discernment.

prejudice: An adverse judgment or opinion formed beforehand or without knowledge or examination of the facts.

“Profiling” and “discrimination” are morally neutral terms.  They describe the normal processes of thinking and making judgments.  Discernment based on observable characteristic is rationality.

Prejudice can cloud rationality if an adverse opinion is formed without knowledge or examination of the facts.  It is prejudice that should be condemned, not making judgments from observable facts.

Here are some observable facts:

  1. Rapes are primarily committed by men.
  2. Major terrorist attacks, worldwide, are primarily committed by young Muslim men.
  3. NBA Basketball teams consist primarily of young black men.
  4. Young black men are 7 times more likely to commit murder, and 8 times more likely to commit robbery than white men.

When you are looking for a rapist, it is rational to target men.  When you are screening airline passengers, it makes sense to target those most likely to be a security threat.  That would not be little girls and grandmothers.  When you are on a dark street, being approached by a group of young men, it is rational to feel safer if it is a group of white men.

These are not foolproof judgments, but they are not prejudiced judgments either.  They are simply factual observations.  The makeup of sports teams is determined by judgment from observable facts, not from racial prejudice.  There is no need to apologize to white people for their lack of representation on NBA teams.  The position on the team was earned.  The other judgments we are talking about are earned as well.  There is no need to apologize for seeing reality as it is.   There should be no laws against it.

Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, the NAACP, are calling for more laws against profiling in the wake of the Martin/Zimmerman case.  The prosecution, defense and both families agree that this incident was not about race.  Yet, Ben Jealous, of the NAACP, said, “We are outraged … and we will not rest until racial profiling in all its forms is outlawed.”

Apparently unaware of the statistics about racial violence and ignorant of the facts in the Zimmerman case, the NEA just launched an anti-profiling campaign.  They say, “the case of Trayvon Martin has activated millions of Americans to urgently seek answers to how we can finally end wide-spread, officially-sanctioned, racial profiling and racially motivated violence….”

The campaigns against racial profiling and  “Islamophobia” are campaigns against reason. It is unfortunate, but perfectly logical, to have an increased fear of violence from young black men or Islamic Jihadists.  We must be clear that those who observe the problem are not the cause of the problem.

Millions of peaceful black men and peaceful Muslims suffer from the acts of the violent members of their group.  They suffer directly from black on black and Muslim on Muslim violence, but they suffer indirectly from the bad image created by the violent minority.  It is the violent minorities that deserve condemnation, not the people who observe and react to the violence.  The observers are the effect, not the cause.

In President Obama’s July 19 black victimology speech, (brilliantly deconstructed here), he discussed profiling as a very significant problem that white folks need to reflect on.  He said, with Clinton-like lip biting for effect, that many black men have the experience of walking near a car and hearing the doors lock or otherwise sensing fear from “white folks”.  His implication was that this was proof of continuing white racism.  It’s not.  It’s fear of crime.

If Obama himself did some honest reflection he would see that doors have been unlocked for him for most of his life because he is black.  At almost every point in his life it has been a huge advantage for him.  This inexperienced Senator from Illinois was a viable Presidential candidate, not it spite of being black, but because he is black.

6 thoughts on “Thinking Clearly About Profiling

  1. “Comparing Black on Black violence in inner-city ghettos to the manslaughter of unarmed Trayvon Martin only shows how ignorant most Americans are and it is how racists justify Zimmermans walking away free. One situation is Black people being trapped in poor communities (implemented by government policy during legal segregation) w/ no economic opportunity and the worst education institution. In effect it leads to violence over scarce resources (ex. youth in Chicago killing each other over pocket change to most people). Trayvon’s case is simply racial profiling (by a racist) leading to a confrontation that Martin clearly didn’t want, which ended w/ him shot dead by Zimmerman. If you don’t understand the racial cast system in the United States that leads to outcomes like theses please EDUCATE yourself before spreading your stupid views.” And if white young men were crossing the street do any of you lock your doors and is it because of no crime? Stereotypes is not recognize either in this. Being a Black male, stereotypes were created about us, people fear us because our skin color, so there is more to it that this article is not explaining from a logic point of view and the eyes of people of color. Looking at a bigger picture there is a lot more to be said where you will understand.

    • Thanks for your response, Kris. I agree with you that government policy played a very significant role in creating the problems of black culture. There was a time when black families stayed together and it was not that long ago that a higher percentage of black men had jobs than white men. Government changed that with well meaning, but very destructive policies.

      I do not agree with you that poverty is the cause of bad values. I would argue that it is the other way around. History is full of examples of poor people who educate themselves, work hard and succeed. They succeed because they have values that lead to success. Education, hard work, taking responsibility to properly raise your children will lead any group of people toward success.

      As for your comments on Zimmerman, you have fully accepted the story that an evil white man chased down and shot a little black boy just because he was black. That story bears no relationship to the truth. None at all. Learn the facts of the case and you will see that you have been played by those who benefit from racial divisions.

    • No, you are dead wrong. A lot of stereotypes are created by the images that the rap-thug-gang culture that proliferates. Witness the “charming” pictures and twitter postings of St. Trayvon. When you work really hard at a manner of dress, speech, and image to create a threatening image, don’t be shocked when it has its intended effect. Dress like a thug and people will react to you as a thug.

  2. What’s this big deal about profiling? I profile everyday … and you do too. Everyone profiles everyday. See, we all have this thing called “human nature”. This is stuff we do automatically. Profiling is one of them. But now profiling is a bad word. So, let’s just substitute something for the word profiling. Ummm, ok, got it. Analyzing. Profiling will now be analyzing. That’s a much better word for what we all do everyday. We analyze. One of the things we analyze everyday is people.

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