Twelve days ago, in the wake of the Cincinnati riots, I wrote:
When blacks riot, attacking white folks or Korean-Americans simply for no other reason than their skin color or race, there’s so much media-thumbsucking about the pent-up frustrations of black people living under racist circumstances, there’s probably not a viable thumbprint left among the entire New York Times editorial board. In such circumstances, it’s all context. “Understand what it’s like to live they way they do,” we are admonished. “Blacks are merely reacting to” whatever white journalists happen to feel guilty about this week.
But when whites attack blacks, well that’s cut and dry. It’s a hate crime. It’s racism.
I was shocked that a lot of readers thought this was a ludicrous assertion on my part. Well, now thanks to Craig Carr, I can say in all honesty “I told you so.”
Of course, the Hamilton County prosecutor’s office says it is looking to see if some of the scores of blacks already in custody might also be guilty of hate-crimes violations. But, so far, they haven’t been able to show probable cause that the numerous attacks on white motorists might have been motivated by racial animus. Perhaps these rioters were really radical environmentalists opposed to cars without fuel-efficient engines? Or maybe these black kids, not seeing too many white folks in that neighborhood, thought the white female driver they pulled from a car was that Epcot Center dominatrix from The Weakest Link? Lord knows she’s due for a beating.
This is all just a tiny example of America’s bizarre racial schizophrenia.
But, there’s another kind of racial profiling that does go on quite a bit. Heather MacDonald calls it “soft racial profiling.” This is where the word “profile” is relevant. Using her example, if a cop receives a bulletin that says Jamaican drug dealers who dig Nissan Pathfinders are known to be transporting a load of ganja up I-95, a cop is likely to scrutinize a black guy in a Pathfinder — even if it turns out that in this case, the driver is just a dentist from Cherry Hill, New Jersey. Also, keep in mind that the driver — black or white — needs to have broken the law, usually by speeding, to be pulled over in the first place. So, at minimum, the profile is for black lawbreakers in certain kinds of cars. Other factors, might be how the guy is dressed, whether he’s a guy in the first place, what time of day or night he’s driving, where his plates are from, etc, etc. You may call this racism, I call this reality.
Anyway, I don’t want to run through the specific arguments about racial profiling (but I cannot recommend Heather MacDonald’s article on the topic enough).
Instead, let’s look at it more generally. Say you have a bunch of vending machines at your office. They all sell the same sweet, sweet, candy. Now, imagine you knew that of the ten vending machines along the wall, machine #5 would give you a free Almond Joy 10% percent of the time, wouldn’t you use that machine closer to 100% of the time? Or, as Daniel Seligman has argued: If you know that one slot machine at Bally’s pays jackpots 10% more often than any other, the line for that slot machine would be a lot longer than any other because even a 10% edge is a significant advantage.
So we know that minorities are more likely to commit crimes right? Or if you insist on saying it the long way: We know that poor, disadvantaged people from single-parent households are more likely to commit crimes, and statistically minorities are more likely to be poor, disadvantaged, and from single-parent households. Therefore minorities are more likely to commit crimes.
Hell, liberal advocates for minorities make this case all the time. They can’t dispute the fact of black (especially black on black) crime and so they say it’s a function of poverty and being underprivileged. Even Jesse Jackson has admitted that racial profiling makes sense. Recall his famous remarks about the “Bad Black Brother.” “There is nothing more painful to me at this stage in my life,” Jackson said in 1993, “than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery. Then look around and see someone white and feel relieved.” So, is Jesse Jackson being racist? As they say at FOX, I report, you decide.
Regardless, what really bothers me is that we use racial profiling constantly in other spheres of American society, based upon the exact same logic and it is supposed to be a good thing.
Just last week the Supreme Court ruled that states can create congressional districts based upon race. Essential to the arguments on both sides of the case was the elemental fact that blacks vote overwhelmingly one way. Some argue that blacks, because they are disadvantaged, need to have their own non-geographically contiguous districts. Others say the opposite. But no one disputes that there are certain conclusions one can draw from the actual facts on the ground of black life, namely in this case they vote Democrat. More to the point, when it comes to electoral politics the Congressional Black Caucus et al. say it’s not only fair and right but even necessary for the state to take race into account because of such facts. That’s racial profiling.
A far better example is affirmative action. Affirmative action assumes (rightly) that blacks are disproportionately disadvantaged. Because of this fact the state and institutions dependent on the state or regulated by it (which leaves out a few churches, a few colleges, and Denny’s) should offer special attention and beneficial scrutiny to black folks. Oh sure, other factors should be taken into account–grades, extracurricular activities etc., but race is still the biggie. Indeed, I would bet, all things being equal, a black kid’s race is a far greater factor in his favor for getting into college than it is for him to get pulled over on the Jersey Turnpike.
Either way, one arm of the government is pursuing justice by taking race into account while another arm of government is supposedly committing a grave injustice because it is taking race into account. And yet, in both circumstances, “race” is shorthand for the same thing. It can all be very confusing.
1. Cosmo the Wonderdog got out of surgery a couple hours ago. The report is good. He’s on some serious opium-based painkillers right now — they took about four millimeters of bone out of his front right leg. Now, I have to worry that my dog is going to be chasing the dragon once this is all over.
2. A lot of people have asked me, what happened to the “Ask an Editor” feature. Well, it’s still there, look down the left hand side of the homepage, or click here.
3. Yes, I know about reports that Miss France might be a man. I just haven’t figured out what to say about it.
4. Please remember to put “correction” in the subject header of e-mails that are corrections and “you are a horses ass” in e-mails that say I am a horse’s ass. It helps greatly for organizational reasons.