The Corner

Once More On Profiling

Roger, I’m simply unconvinced. First of all, I stand by the view that racial quotas in hiring and admissions aren’t very analogous to what is usually thought of as racial profiling. With racial quotas a human being is largely reduced to his skin color and the state (or its proxy institutions) gives out or withholds tangible non-trivial  benefits based along those lines.

Nothing like that is going on with racial profiling. By your logic, a border agent in southern Arizona can be looking for poor Spanish-speakers racing across the desert at night coming from Mexico but he can’t be looking for Mexicans. This, despite the fact, that Arizona is the primary entry point for illegal immigrants from Mexico.

That’s just weird.

What if African-Americans were particularly vulnerable to a new strain of the flu? In a Clegg administration would the CDC and NIH be barred from taking race into account when it comes to distributing vaccinations where they’re most needed?

If an Asian man in his fifties abducts my child, I want the Amber Alert bulletin instructing cops to  look for Asian men in their fifties. If that’s racial profiling and you’re against that, we’ll never see eye to eye. But if by racial profiling you mean white cops picking on black teenagers walking home from the movies simply because they’re black, I’m against that. But that has nothing to do with what we’re talking about.

As for your Jew-Communist point, I don’t think this works all that well for you and probably muddies the waters in ways you may not have anticipated (if it was an attempt to play upon my own ethnic sympathies, it didn’t). For starters, we didn’t have a “Jew” problem, or even a “Communist Jew” problem. We had a Communist problem. If Jews were wildly more likely to be Communist spies or agents, the example might work better, but not a lot better. Regardless, you write: “As a statistical matter, Jews were more likely than non-Jews to be Communists.” I would like to see those statistics. Because it seems to me, given the size of the Jewish population,  that you could make the case that  while Jews were more likely than non-Jews to be  Communists  you couldn’t necessarily make the case that a Communist was more likely to be a Jew than a non-Jew. In other words, Jews were disproportionately involved in Communism but Communism wasn’t therefore disproportionately Jewish, numerically speaking (someone told me that left-handed people are more successful than right handed people, that doesn’t mean most successful people are left-handed).

As an aside, Jews were overrepresented in the Italian Fascist party from its founding until 1938. But if, in 1935, you were hunting for Fascists, you’d be pretty foolish to concentrate your efforts on Jews.  Whatever “the statistical matter” concentrating on Jews then, or bringing up Jews now, isn’t all that productive.

More broadly, I’m increasingly convinced that  much of this “racial profiling” talk is a red herring. The law in Arizona forbids it, so debating it as if it’s part of the law fuels criticisms that I don’t think are quite fair.

Also, I’m increasingly willing to call bravo sierra on most complaints of racial profiling generally (See Heather Mac Donald for the sustained argument here). You know this stuff better than I, but my understanding is that the way opponents of racial profiling “prove” it’s going on is by looking at the number of traffic stops, arrests, etc and then seeing if certain groups are disproportionately represented. This is not necessarily  proof that the cops discriminated. Blacks are overrepresented in America’s prisons. No doubt racism in the criminal justice system contributes to this fact and such racism shouldn’t be condoned. But that racism is not why the vast majority of those criminals are in jail (we can save broader “root causes” arguments for another time).

Disparate results aren’t proof of racism, they’re proof that society’s problems aren’t uniformly allotted across all racial and demographic groups (indeed, the chief argument — prior to diversity — for racial quotas was precisely this observation).  Hence the “remedy” for racial profiling is to juke the stats. One way of doing that is to inconvenience more people than necessary out of fairness. If DHS  is, out of necessity, scrutinizing men of South Asian descent at airports, one way to rebut charges of profiling is to scrutinize more white dudes from Iowa and black ladies from Denver. Do that enough and — bada bing — no profiling. That strikes me as a huge waste of effort. Particularly when the complaint in the first place is that these laws cause some people to be unfairly scrutinized by law enforcement.

But let’s say you completely took race off the cops’ checklist. Whatever problems that might create or solve, it wouldn’t alter the ethnic composition of illegal immigrants much, would it? It’s not like if cops stop explicitly looking for Mexicans, they’ll suddenly find a lot more Swedes. Roger says it’s okay to focus on language but not “race.” But, as a statistical matter, if you focus on language (hard to do with night-vision binoculars in the desert, btw) you’re still going to end up with a wildly disproportionate share of illegal Mexican immigrants. Why? Because a disproportionate share of illegal immigrants are from Mexico.

Anyway, I’ve gone on too long. But I’ll close with this last point. Roger writes:  “Here, as I say, the most the Arizona police hope to accomplish is to catch people who are here looking for work. It’s just not worth it.”

That’s the heart of Roger’s position. He doesn’t think illegal immigration is a very big problem. He may be right. But the people of Arizona disagree with him.


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