First, the American Bar Association set the tone by inviting convicted thief and felon Webb Hubbell to speak to them at their convention in Atlanta. On August 6th, he joked, “I may be the only person who’s flown on Air Force One and Con Air,” referring to the Southwest Airlines route between New Orleans and Baton Rouge — no, no, just kidding. He was referring to the plane that shuttles rapists, murderers, bank robbers, embezzlers, and former Clinton officials from one prison to another. But apparently the ABA couldn’t get enough of that sweet, sweet, moral authority. So then they invited President Clinton to address them the week after he was fined for obstruction of justice. Letting Clinton off easy, the judge slapped him for his “deceptions and falsehoods in an attempt to obstruct the judicial process.”
This was the same group that dragged Nixon into court to be disbarred (they wouldn’t let him resign quietly). His crime, according to the ABA, was casting “aspersions upon the integrity of the profession.”
Well, now the ABA is lending the full force of its ethical profundity to speaking out against racial profiling. In a unanimous voice vote, the ABA declared that they were against the practice. Well, bully for them. The (annoying, unpleasant, inconvenient, hateful) reality is that racial profiling is largely a myth — in the sense that the practice is pervasive, racist, hate-filled, or unnecessary.
First, think of it statistically. As Daniel Seligman has pointed out, if everyone knew that a single slot machine in Las Vegas paid jackpots 10% more often than all other slot machines, the traffic at that machine would be far greater than just 10% greater. This may sound crude and calculating, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. Police officers have been trained to look for combinations of factors. One of them is race. But others are make and model of car, clothes, attitude, sex, and demeanor. If race were the only factor, then black old ladies would get pulled over as often as young black males. We know that isn’t the case and you don’t need me to cite the statistics to make that case.
But statistics are what we’ll get. The ABA has requested that more data be collected. The president wants more data. The NAACP wants more data. There’s no problem with more data, except for the fact that the data will undoubtedly be used to make fraudulent points. For example, the Washington Post cites a Maryland study that found that on one stretch of I-95 minorities comprised 27% of traffic stops, even though they comprised 17% of drivers. One’s tempted to say “Alert the Media!,” but they’ve already been alerted.
We know as a matter of fact that crime is disproportionately prevalent in poor black neighborhoods. If we are to take that fact seriously, it will mean that poor blacks will be disproportionately disadvantaged by any honest attempt to deal with the problem. Aging hippies in northern Vermont will not be patted down very much — regardless of race.
Heather MacDonald points out in the current issue of City Journal how the press has mastered the art of self-lobotomization. The New York Times recently wrote, “Nearly 40,000 people were stopped and frisked during the last two years SIMPLY BECAUSE [my emphasis] a street crime officer mistakenly thought they were carrying guns.” Good Lord! “Simply because,” “simply because?” You can almost see Al Sharpton, et al., ranting, “Simply Because!?”
Well, what other reason is acceptable for stopping and frisking people? Astrological signs? If you think someone is carrying a gun, you’re supposed to stop and frisk them, right? Of course, police should stop people when they have metaphysical certitude. But, shockingly, most cops don’t have X-ray vision or mental telepathy. Usually, they have to go on hunches.
For all the ranting about guns, one would think this would be celebrated. How many times are we supposed to hear how Americans need to “get serious” about handguns? Well, that’s what police do when they take their lives into their hands and search strangers for weapons.
I know the Left just wants to get rid of the guns wholesale, but A) even if we did, cops would still need to search criminals for guns that already exist, and B) since when do these people believe that social problems are solved by supply-side approaches?
Discriminating against people solely on the basis of race is horrible and quite rare. But discriminating against people for a host of reasons in combination with race, gender, height, age, etc., is a universal human response. We do it with people who wear nose-rings and stink of pot smoke, we do it of people who read the Utne Reader while eating macrobiotic muffins, we do it with old white men who tuck their pants into their black socks, we do it when we see people wearing Vulcan ears and Star Trek uniforms, and we do when we see young black men behaving in a certain way, at certain times, in certain places.
Just ask Jesse Jackson, who in 1994 took a brief time-out from his usual demagoguery to speak plainly. Speaking about the example set by rap artists, he said, “You can’t wear a Malcolm X hat and call women bitches. You can’t wear a Mandela T-shirt and call us niggers.”
More to the point, Jackson admitted, “There is nothing more painful to me at this stage in my life than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery. Then look around and see someone white and feel relieved.”
Sounds like racial profiling to me, and he doesn’t even have to search anybody.
DIRT COMIN’ AT YA
My apologies to those who missed yesterday’s column. For those who didn’t miss it, well, you get what you pay for. I’ve been here in NYC sitting in one of these veal-pens you working stiffs call “cubicles.” I’m heading back to Washington, D.C., today and when I am safely entrenched and ensconced on my couch, I will tell all the dirty secrets of this right-wing Peyton Place.