Save a Buck, Bust a Brown Person: the Idiocy in Racial Profiling

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Of all the points made against racial profiling, this is the one you want to avoid making if your gig is avoiding looking stupid: Racial profiling is wrong because it is not effective.  On the left side of the shouting match about racial profiling you far too often hear someone rattle off all the white terrorists they have ever heard of in an attempt to make a case that there aren’t any ethnic trends in terrorism.  The guy arguing for racial profiling will then start a list of as many brown bad guys as he can conjure up and “From there the conversation will devolve into a contest to see who can name more terrorists, until at some point the segment runs out of time.” (Ben Eidelson for Salon)  Apart from this being an entertaining spectacle to watch, this is clearly a pathetic exercise and even if you are the victor, your long list of terrorists only qualifies you as a terror geek.  It solves nothing.

So what to do instead?  Eidelson’s got the answer: argue that racial profiling is morally wrong.  Two examples:

Arizona: “Arizona’s new law, for instance, will ostracize innocent Latinos, entrench racial suspicions, and lend the government’s endorsement to hostile stereotypes about who “looks American.” It will serve as a regular and painful reminder to Latino Americans that, in the eyes of many, they don’t belong in their own neighborhood.”

Airport Security: “The question is whether officials should consider ethnicity as one factor in deciding whom to examine more or less closely. We should exclude race and religion from those judgments not because everybody is equally likely to be a threat, but because it would be wrong to institutionalize the alienating suspicion already faced by innocent Muslims and Arab-Americans in their schools, workplaces and communities.”

The inevitable retort to this line of argument will be that we have limited resources and border hoppers and plane bombers in recent history tend to fit a certain profile.  So as uncomfortable as it might make weak sauce commies, brown people are getting the pat-down.  Or, as Fox commentator Steven Crowder helpfully puts it, “You’re not looking for a blond-haired, blue-eyed Swede most of the time.”

As easy as that might make airport security checks for this Swede, this kind of lazy pragmatism makes me sick to the stomach.  Simply because something is simpler or more cost-efficient doesn’t make it right.  This kind of racially-charged rhetoric that blames broad swaths of our population for society’s ills was equally convenient in Nazi Germany when a particularly charismatic leader harnessed German efficiency to his less than fuzzy feelings for Abraham’s children.

Change for the worse may at first happen slowly but bigoted thought has a way of snowballing.  On the heels of the passing of the Arizona law sanctioning police questioning of those who “look” like illegal immigrants, we have another encouraging trend from this anachronism of a state:  a bill that seeks to nix ethnic studies in Arizona schools.  The Los Angeles Times correctly identifies the law as a source of great concern for those who believe, “it’s yet another law targeting Latinos in the state.”

Massive opposition to this kind of downward spiral is needed now.  The Los Angeles and San Francisco and, just today, Austin city governments have passed official boycotts of Arizona for most business.  Opposition to institutionalized prejudice should not just be the remit of government.  Don’t fight creeping racism with weak arguments about what color our troubles come in.  We have far greater problems on our hands if we turn back the tide of civil rights progress by claiming that racial profiling is justified because it is more cost and time-effective a method to soothe our woes.  We have come too far and we are too wealthy a society to justify institutionalized prejudice for such petty reasons.  As Eidelson puts it:  “It may simply cost us more — in time, money or convenience — to achieve the same level of success without racial discrimination. Many Americans are fond of the slogan that “freedom isn’t free.” Why should we expect that fairness will be?”

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Bjorn Karlman

22 thoughts on “Save a Buck, Bust a Brown Person: the Idiocy in Racial Profiling”

  1. I am against racial profiling, it is against the law, and it cannot be effective when fighting terrorism or illegal immigration (because no race is exclusive to either). That said, the AZ law does NOT mandate racial profiling. It is already against the law to do so. That whole argument is a fictional boogie man and any officer that does racially profile will lose his/her job.

    Much has been said about who ‘looks American’. That is a false argument. The fact is if you stumble into Nogales with rags on and dying of thirst, it wouldn’t take a genius to put two and two together and together and assume that you might have illegally crossed the border. If you have a van filled with people who don’t speak English and the driver doesn’t know the names of any of the people in the van, same thing. None rely on racial profiling, but certainly involve profiling and the way a person looks.

  2. A couple more things, the ethnic studies law was written by an immigrant from El Slavador, Steve Montenegro.

    “This kind of racially-charged rhetoric that blames broad swaths of our population for society’s ills was equally convenient in Nazi Germany when a particularly charismatic leader harnessed German efficiency to his less than fuzzy feelings for Abraham’s children.”

    So like I asked earlier…it must be just as offensive to you when people blame the rich or big business for our countries ills since most of those people are white. Isn’t rich people code for white?

  3. I’ve heard the above arguments, and it’s kind of a silly excuse for this law. You don’t have to have this law in order to detain people in rugs and dying of thirst, while not speaking any English.

    You’d be naive to say that the people who will be stopped by following the law are most likely illegal. This law specifically targets people of Hispanic descent, because majority of illegals are Hispanic.

    I talked to a lady recently who was complaining about the illegal immigrant in emergency room of a hospital for two days, while her husband’s insurance was denied and they could not afford the stay. I’ve asked her how did she know that person was here illegally. She was stumped for a second, and then she said that it was obvious somehow. She admitted that she did not know for sure.

    But you see that’s the problem. We are trying to solve the wrong things. Instead of putting up laws like these, how about giving people less intensive to be here illegally?

    It’s absolutely ridiculous what the medical costs for US Residents are. It has nothing to do with illegals.

    All you really have to do is to abolish minimal wage laws, and you’ll solve half of the “problem”, Until then, you’ll have to thank the farmers who can’t live without below-minimum wage help that they are getting from these people, because artificially low food prices are maintained by places like Wall-Mart and any other Mart… it’s not profitable to farm without government intensives.

    Drop the minimum wage, and you’ll have better employment. For the nearly 20% for unemployed today, many would be willing to work below the minimum wage levels. Let the markets decide.

    You can’t solve the problem of immigration by simply prohibiting it. I don’t understand how anyone would think it’ll be effective. People will simply change their “look”, and dress better… they’ll still keep jumping over that fence and keep seeking a better way of life for their families,

    because let’s face it…. any of us would do exactly the same thing.

  4. I would immigrate to any country where I could make more money. However, if I did it illegally and was deported, I wouldn’t be an ungrateful bitch about it. I would take my free ride home laughing and thankful I was able to make the money I did. I certainly wouldn’t consider the people in that country racist considering they were able to pay me more than the country I came from.

    Illegals definitely put an extra burden on our health care system. Many of the uninsured are illegals and there seems to be a consensus that the uninsured are a big part of the problem with costs. Go to any emergency room in Phoenix and see if you can find anyone who speaks English there and/or if any of them have an actual emergency, and/or if any of them have insurance. I used to delivery pizza part time at night and would frequent several hospitals in Phoenix, and one of the first things you see when you walk in is a sign in Spanish saying that you cannot be denied service at an emergency room for immigration status, insurance status, money, etc.

    That said, there is no doubt that illegals are only part of the problem.

    “You’d be naive to say that the people who will be stopped by following the law are most likely illegal. This law specifically targets people of Hispanic descent, because majority of illegals are Hispanic.”

    And you would be misinformed if you think that is what the law is.

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/36881894/ns/us_news-life/

    Should we not enforce white collar crimes since a great majority of those crimes are committed by white people which would (seemingly by your logic) would necessitate racial profiling?

  5. Or, if you prefer to take race out of the equation, maybe we shouldn’t enforce any laws since men commit a great majority of total crimes and any law creates a gender bias and hatred/profiling of males.

  6. “You’d be naive to say that the people who will be stopped by following the law are most likely illegal. This law specifically targets people of Hispanic descent, because majority of illegals are Hispanic.”

    The law targets illegals, it does not target Hispanics. The fact that a majority of illegals happen to Hispanic has nothing to do with the law and does not make the law racist.

    I think there are valid reasons to say that this law is not the most effective way to combat illegal immigration. I agree with Audrey that we need to take away the incentive for illegals, and I think most of us can get behind that; though we may differ on what that would entail.

    You can have an honest debate about whether or not this law is affective. But don’t waste our time as President Obama has, but simply claiming the law is racist. If the law really was racist I’d be decrying it as loudly as anyone, but I have yet to be shown anything specific in this law that targets people based on race.

  7. There is obviously no racial profiling mandate in the law. And I understand your examples. But lack of a racial profiling mandate says nothing to convince me that that is not what will happen in reality. But let’s get off the partisan back and forth and get to the real problem. No comprehensive federal action to stem the tide of illegal immigration. I hope Obama is more than rhetoric on the need for some action in this dept

  8. Not sure I agree with the logic here…. who cares if he was from El Salvador? Doesn’t take away from the law fitting into a growing tide of anti-Latino sentiment in the state. And I don’t blame our country’s ills on the rich.

  9. Scary that the lady was convinced that she could sense “obviously” illegal types…

    And I’m for keeping minimum wage. You can’t get rid of the incentives for coming to the US. They abound. This country is awesome… I came here and I’m staying… I just had the fortune of having my employer pay the $10K plus it cost to cross the border legally..

  10. If a person made the claim that a law was anti-white, but a bunch of white guys wrote the bill, then I think it would be safe to say it that person claiming racism is just trying to score cheap political points. I think that point is true here as well.

    I didn’t saying you blamed anything on the rich. Read what I say before you go after a straw man. I said when people blame the rich, you must be just as upset when as when people blame everything on illegals…if you are intellectually consistent that is.

  11. BTW, you need an edit or delete button on these posts…this is what I meant to say…

    If a person made the claim that a law was anti-white, but a bunch of white guys wrote the bill, then I think it would be safe to say that the person claiming racism is just trying to score cheap political points. I think that is the case here. Everyone has something to say and they are basing it not on reading the law, but basing it on what a few demagogues have said on the issue.

    I didn’t say you blamed anything on the rich. Read what I say before you go after a straw man. I said when people blame the rich, you must be just as upset as when people blame everything on illegals…if you are intellectually consistent that is.

  12. I also have to say it seems weird to me that you were so willing to accept Obama’s word on everything he said about healthcare — a bill that would directly effect every single human being in the United States. Arizona’s bill only effects people in Arizona and if it is as bad as you say, would still only effect a fraction of the population of the state. Even then, there would still be legal recourse because the things you are concerned are about are already illegal. Do you think what you are saying is a little silly? Just a little?

  13. David,

    I don’t think I’m misinformed about the law. I have problem with the law on 2 levels.

    1) The “legality” of immigration is a bogus issue considering the history of this nation. This nation thrived due to immigrants… both legal and illegal, and it will keep on thriving because of them. If you want to consider a “strain” on the system… why not consider the lazy Americans who don’t want to do the jobs that the illegals do today, and would rather collect welfare?

    There are hundreds of thousands of “legal” immigrants today that simply exploit the immigration law by getting here on 60 day tourist VISAS and then keep paying the “delay” fee for re-consideration.

    Once again, the immigration law basically is a way to weed out the poor and uneducated people who don’t deserve a chance to have what you have.

    2) The racial profiling part of this law is OBVIOUS. The logic is following:

    1) Hispanic
    2) Poor
    3) Thuggishly dressed
    =
    Illegal immigrant… should show the papers.

    1) White/Angle-Saxon
    2) Rich
    3) Well-dressed and Speaks English well
    =
    Legal Immigrant

    The essence (perhaps not the language of the law) of this law is to make predominately Hispanic, and perhaps Arab people suspects. If that’s not racial profiling, then I don’t know what is.

    Your example about white color example does not fly, because there’s no law that makes you a suspect of the crime based on what you look like :). When was the last time you were stopped and were asked to prove that you are not embezzling from your workplace by the cops?

    Would you like to be asked because you look like “the type”?

    That’s the entire point behind the outrage.

  14. How about I’ll stop you and make you prove to me that you are not a child molester, because you are sporting the child molester’s stash?

    http://www.ithaca.edu/students/dmcgloi1/images/mustache.jpg ?

    I know, it’s a ridiculous example… but it’s nevertheless relevant. The point is NOT the enforcement of the law, but what constitutes reasonable suspicion, and the basic rights of human beings to be treated like human beings without a piece of paper stating it so!

  15. I don’t think that the law is racist per say. I think that the law is based upon racial profiling. Whether the profiling is just or unjust is irrelevant.

    If we start calling all effeminate guys gay based on a “profile” of a gay person… that would be uncalled for.

    The logic is such that:

    Because most of the Illegals are Hispanic… thus the probability is high that any given Hispanic person is illegal immigrant.

    The problem here is that you believe that a human being needs a piece of paper stamped by a government to be considered a “legal human”. It’s beyond idiocy. No-one should be forced to carry a piece of paper against their will, or be arrested and forcefully moved elsewhere without it.

    You can argue that they should not receive undue benefits, but this is not what the law seeks to do.

  16. Thanks for the link:

    Lots of language that will obviously be interpreted in all kinds of ways. I wonder how strictly the following will be taken… and for people that invite people that over-stay their visas….:

    “ENCOURAGE OR INDUCE AN ALIEN TO COME TO OR RESIDE IN THIS STATE IF
    THE PERSON KNOWS OR RECKLESSLY DISREGARDS THE FACT THAT SUCH COMING TO,
    ENTERING OR RESIDING IN THIS STATE IS OR WILL BE IN VIOLATION OF LAW.”

  17. The racial profiling stuff you just listed is not in the law. You just made it up. The law we passed is already federal law. The federal law already requires immigrants to carry their papers.

    And there are no Arabs in AZ. There are lots of other immigrants from pretty much every place, but probably mostly from Africa.

    I am not white, so I wouldn’t be stopped for a white collar crime. I have never been stopped for looking like an illegal immigrant either though. I don’t expect to either since that is not part of the law (which you would know if you read the link I just posted).

    To me it just seems that the people who oppose the law look at the facts, and come to the exact opposite of the logical conclusion. All the law says is that people who are stopped by police for other reasons will also be asked for ID regarding immigration status. Every time I have ever been stopped by a cop, I have been asked for ID. Every time. And since federal law mandates that immigrants carry ID with them, then it shouldn’t be a problem. It takes about 15 seconds to do. What kind of adult doesn’t carry ID with them. A person without ID would be pretty suspicious if you ask me. Every single person I have ever known carries an ID with them at all times. In AZ, you have to be legal to have a drivers license.

  18. That already happens. If a person is arrested or even just pulled over for whatever reason, the police officer checks if you have any outstanding warrants. That has happened to me several times. So no, I wouldn’t mind it and I don’t mind it.

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