Friday, August 05, 2005

Racial Profiling

With all the talk about racial profiling these days, I thought I'd add my 2 cents. I believe I may have a perspective that has yet to be viewed.

I have seen racial profiling first hand. Well, maybe second hand. When I lived in Kansas City, I witnessed a case of blatant racial profiling. It happened in the City of Overland Park, Kansas, which is a city located in Johnson County. Kansas.

For those of you not acquainted with Johnson County, Let me describe it for you. Not long ago, Johnson County claimed the highest per capita income of any county in the United States. It isn't the richest county in the country anymore, but it's still home to very wealthy people. Got the picture?

I was driving along 95th street, having just exited the interstate. In the car beside me, an older model Chevrolet Monte Carlo, badly dented and rusted, were seated 5 African Americans, both men and women. They had exited the highway just ahead of me and I had overtaken them in less than 2 blocks as I tend to drive as close to the speed limit, and sometimes a little over, as I can. They were driving slightly below the limit. Their tag was current and their brake lights and signals worked, as far as anyone could tell.

An Overland Park police car fell in behind them as we drove side by side down the street. Due to the presence of a police car, I automatically slowed down, just in case.

I watched in my rear view mirror, to see what the policeman was doing. (I neglected to mention that I get rather paranoid when I see a patrol car.) He did not speak into his radio mic, but he switched on his lights, indicating that the car ahead of him should pull over, which they obediently did, immediately. I drove on, but I realized at that point, and for the first time in my life, that I had just witnessed a case of racial profiling. It made me angry.

When someone is detained, or searched solely because of their skin color, in conjunction with the condition and/or age of their vehicle, or not in conjunction with the vehicle, it is racial profiling.

And that is just plain wrong. No matter how you attempt to excuse it.

Now. I told you that so I can tell you this:

Racial profiling and Ethnic profiling are not the same thing. Particuarly when we are all at risk of further terrorist attacks such as our WTC attacks and London's mass transit attacks.

When the police are detaining black or brown people based on the color of their skin, in the context of looking for an arrest, any arrest, it is quite different from looking for potential terrorists.

Look, crimes are committed by people of all colors and all walks of life, and all religious philosophies.

Terror attacks are committed by young middle eastern muslim men, ages 18-30 something, usually with back packs on their backs.

All attacks are committed by these people. Not some. All of them. A far cry from racial profiling.

Terror attacks can be stopped by Ethnic profiling, common crime cannot be stopped by racial profiling. Ethnic profiling is justified, at least temporarily, until we can stop terrorism.

Little old ladies in wheelchair's are never a threat. Our government needs to stop being afraid of violating terrorist's civil rights. And middle eastern muslim men between the ages if 18-30 something need to understand that they are a suspect ethnic group. If they don't, they will just have to learn to live with a little inconvenience until the threat is over.

The terrorists are to blame, not us. From what I've heard, the majority of middle eastern muslim men in America understand and don't take offense to ethnic profiling.

Racial profiling is wrong. Ethnic profiling is justified. At least until we neutralize the threat.

Lie Of The Day
"We are deeply concerned about the safety and security of our subways," claimed a representative for the NY Civil Liberties Union.

If your organization is so concerned, then stop trying to undermine the random subway searches with your lawsuits! The searches may not be fool-proof, but they are at least a step forward towards becoming more secure.

Now, a joke: I was arrested for drunk driving in Massachusetts. At he trial, the judge asked me, "Do you know what the penalty for driving under the influence of alcohol is in this state?"

I replied, "Oh, I don't to the senate?"

A plug: Be sire you check out my long time friend, Ursa's blog. It is a pot pourri of jokes and quotes and stuff. Some adult themes, but not many. There is something for everybody at Ursa's place.


A.T. said...

I know this isn't the point of your post, but let me say that you have a lot of assumptions about the officer in the incident described:

- that the officer was not already familiar with the driver/car from previous run-ins

- that the officer was not looking for a car that fit that description in relation to suspicious activity

- that the current tags didn't have stolen decals to make them appear current (which an officer could run on a computer on the fly to determine)

- that there was not some other infraction involved for which you aren't aware (ex: in Virginia, it's illegal to have something hanging from your rearview mirror)

Just some things to consider before assuming that the officer was engaging in racial profiling.

Erudite Redneck said...

I agree with mark.

Mark said...

Allen, You are right, of course, but one has to consider, in this case, the area in which this happened. The car in question was very out of place for the area. That fact alone, if I were a policeman, would have roused some suspicion, but isn't that what profiling means?

Lone Ranger said...

What allen said.

I had an experience with the LAPD once when I worked for AFRTS. Our facility was a walled-in compound in North Hollywood. One night I was informed there was a disturbance in the compound. I went out to find one of our black employees down on the pavement with about six cops surrounding him. When I asked for an explanation, I was told he fit the description of someone who had been robbing convenience stores in the area. I asked them for the description and they couldn't give it to me. I informed them the man was one of our valued employees and that this was a military facility and I was in charge and they had no jurisdiction and had better vamoose. The next day, after reading my report, our colonel demanded an apology from the chief of police -- and got it. That was NOT an instance of racial profiling, that was bigotry.

Criminal and racial profiling are perfectly valid means of investigation. That's why the FBI employs profilers to catch serial killers.

Every Muslim terrorist so far has had the same color skin, the same color eyes, the same color hair, the same religion and an Arabic name. Political correctness is no longer just silly and annoying, it is suicidal.

A.T. said...

My only point is that far too many people assume that police officers are out there racially profiling drivers. Having been a police officer, I can tell you that I never once new of an officer who pulled someone over due to their race (unless they fit a specific description of a specific suspect for whom police were searching). And I think that people make assumptions about specific events - deeming them race-based maltreatment by police - when there may be many other factors for which the observer could not be aware. That's all. Just asking for a little benefit of the doubt, which officers get far too infrequently.

Erudite Redneck said...

I agree with lone ranger.

The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

Maybe this is a bit off-topic, but in relation to what allen said, when I was in college, I did part-time work as a uniformed guard, once, in a clothing store. Instead of just going through the motions, I actually tried to do a good job by actively paying attention to every customer's behavior. If I wasn't sure, I'd try to be subtle and invisible so that I wouldn't contaminate behavior (since I wasn't undercover at the time, and the uniform acts as a physical deterrent to shoplifting).

One day, a black student walked in with his girlfriend and I was at the side entrance where they entered. We exchanged friendly greetings. I was facing the front of the store and was just standing there. No other customers were in the store. They turned to venture toward the back of the store, so I had my back to them; but I could still see them from a mirror in front of me. Well, the student looked up and saw me watching. He grabbed up his girlfriend (who happened to be white, by the way) and left fuming. It kind of took me aback (I was still fairly green) and if I had it to do over again, I would have tried to explain to him what I am explaining to you now: That I scrutinize every customer that enters in. Usually, after a little bit of initial behavioral profiling, if they act like normal shoppers, I won't pay as much attention to them; just the occasional checkup to see if anything in their behavior has changed that is cause for alarm. One of the characteristics you look for in a potential shoplifter is that they pay more attention to you and the sales-staff than to the merchandise; you know, shifty eyes and looking around a lot. Eventually, I came around to realizing the challenge of distinguishing those who looked around because they were looking for opportunity for theft and those who just had a habit of looking around, looking for someone, looking for help, or because of past injustices, would instantly pick up on their radar when they were being watched because from past experience they have been singled out for their skin color and dress. Most white customers who I would observe were oblivious to the fact that I was "summing 'em up". Whereas, quite a few black customers instantly would be sensitive to myself or any sales workers who paid them any mind.

A similar experience happened again, where another black customer was shopping in the store and no other customers were in the store. When I realized what he was thinking, I approached him and had a good conversation with him. It was like a light bulb went off in his head, and he saw things from my perspective and felt a lot better about the situation. It made me feel better too, not to have someone else out there who felt his beliefs about being racially persecuted in stores reinforced by his experience in my store, when it wasn't the case. It happens out there, but it is frustrating when people find racism where it's not.

Erudite Redneck said...

I agree with wordsmith.

Jodie said...

Allen, when i lived in Overland Park, there was a case where two African-American women were accused of shoplifting in Dillards (they weren't).

Realtors were still steering African-Americans away from housing in the "white areas" of the KC area into the 1990s.

In the hospital I worked in, white people did not meet the eyes of black people unless they already knew them, although they would do so with other whites.

I am white, but from a different culture and I found this very puzzling.

A.T. said...

Fair enough. None of these have anything to do with police (the shoplifting detention would've almost certainly been store security).

I'm not an idiot, by the way. I know that racial profiling by police has happened - I'm not denying any of it. I'm just saying that we ought not to assume that a certain event is indicative of racial profiling without knowing much more than what was presented in this post as, definitively, racial profiling my police.

A.T. said...

"BY police."

Erudite Redneck said...

I agree with allen.

Toad734 said...

No they are not all Mideastern, none of the latest London bombers were Middle Mastern, they were African. I agree with what you are saying in theory but neither these guys nor Richard Ried was "middle eastern".

That being said, should they search old white ladies and Swedish lutharens? No.

Also, I am on a dart team with 4 Muslim guys who are as white as me and one has blond hair.

Mark said...

OK. So it was a dumb comment. I can't be brilliant everyday!

Erudite Redneck said...

I agree with Mark again. (Snicker)

tugboatcapn said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
tugboatcapn said...

Toad's anecdotal evidence aside, I think that we would have a much higher probability of catching or stopping potential terrorists if we did search most middle-eastern males between 18 and thirty-something, than, say, searching every fifth passenger, regardless of age.

Toad, of the guys you refer to, have any of them recently been to Pakistan? If so, I would be really worried if I were you...

mlwhitt said...

As to you being nervous about having a cop behind you, I am the same way. I try to do everything right, yet I am always so paranoid when I get a cop behind me. Guess that is just part of being a good guy. Good guys worry around police, bad guys dont.

tugboatcapn said...

don't you think that some of the responsibility for identifying terrorists should rest upon the muslims in this country who aren't terrorists?
I mean, if i knew of a criminal or potential terrorist within my own ethnic group, I would try to expose him or her...
Until muslims who don't agree with the extremists start to take an active roll in helping to combat this problem (and I don't know that they aren't...)thing are going to get harder on them, don't you think?

Mary said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mary said...

Thepress is very agreeable today! :)

I would hope that precious resources aren't wasted doing searches on the elderly or six-year-old girls because of their place in a line. That would be a dereliction of duty by the authorities.

Suspicious behavior and dress should prompt a search. Age and certain physical characteristics might cause authorities to give greater scrutiny to an individual. That makes sense.

It doesn't make sense to risk a disaster in the name of not wanting to offend someone.

If Middle Eastern young men are unfairly targeted, they should direct their anger at the Middle Eastern young men that slaughtered thousands of people, not the authorities responsible for maintaining public safety.

Note to Mark: I see what I did now. That's what I get for posting when I'm half asleep. :)

Toad734 said...

So in Oklahoma City should be searching for white gun nuts from Michigan?

RE Tug

No none of them have been to Pakistan, the point was that they aren't Arab or Middle Eastern, and not so coincidentally they aren't terrorists either.

I have just heard a lot of people we should be searching Muslims, my point was what do Muslims look like? And as far as the Arab thing goes, look at the latest London bombing, they weren't Middle Eastern or Arabs.

So Tug, am I presenting anecdotal evidence or are you guys the ones who are doing it?