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I revised the article after realizing that there are at least 3 different meanings of racial profiling. I think opponents of “racial profiling” would agree with the definition:
the unjustified use of race as a consideration in profiling suspects
The question remains, of course, what would justify the use of race. When searching for an individual (such as the man who just robbed a liquor store), police always ask for a description. They want skin color, clothing, height, scars, and so on. I’m not sure whether there’s any opposition to using race to describe individual suspects.
When making random stops, there is less agreement.
I think the major division is between those who believe:
race should be included when statistically significant, or
race should never be included
If I’ve left anything out, please add it. I’m hoping that my own view (that race should be included only if it’s significant, and that police should be monitored closely for signs of prejudice and discrimination) has not misled me once again into confounding my own views with what is generally held, or into misrepresenting anyone’s position.
I rearranged some of the paragraphs and tried to tighten up the definition of “racial profiling”. Ed Poor
Couple of suggestions from — April:
Include citations for the “some studies” which suggest X.
Set off US-specific text (DEA, ACLU, etc) with “In the United States…”
Good suggestions, April. Also, the blurring of the distinction between “race as main factor” and “any use of race as a factor” may be more significant than I at first thought.
In today’s N.Y. Daily News, an article used the term racial profiling in both senses, explicitly mentioning its definition in each case. The article, notably, took no note of the shifting use of the term.
The first mention was a citizen complaint that police were using race as the “top factor” in making stops. The second mention was the wording of a proposed regulation which specifically forbids “any” use of race in making stops.
It reminds me of stories I had heard 15 years ago of citizens groups who apparently want the police to go easier on minority (esp. black) criminals — a kind of an affirmative action applied not to students or employees but to wrong-doers.
My personal preference is the “level playing field” concept, in which all persons — students applying to school or getting grades or diplomas; job applicants or employees seeking promotions — would be judged solely on their ability not their race. Oddly enough, some advocates of “affirmative action” call my pet concept “racist”. Go figure. Ed Poor, Tuesday, April 9, 2002
I can explain the latter point of view to you, though my own opinions, while not contradictory, are somewhat more complex than either side of the usual dichotomy on the affirmative action issue. At any rate, the “standard” objection, if you will, to the point of view described above is that the biases are already built-in long before students are tested or applying for jobs. In other words, they argue, affirmative action is a pallative measure, designed to “level the playing field” by making up for the biases which (they presume) have been holding some groups back since childhood.
A possible solution addressing both sides of this debate might be to pair an ending of affirmative action with a major effort to level the initial playing field; that is, seeing that minority youngsters have greater access to good nutrition, stable neighborhoods, good education, and good access to career services such as job training, et cetera. Were that done, there would then be no argument for needing measures at later stages to correct imbalances, as the imbalances would have been corrected much earlier. Further, this treatment need not be restricted to minority youngsters, but could be broad-based to anyone who might not normally have such access. — April, Tuesday, April 9, 2002
To add to this, I once wrote an essay that rambled much more than April’s succinct summary. My view was that in any given group of humans (black, white, etc), you probably have the same proportion of personality types. Let’s assume that 50% of any given group is normally motivated, and 25% are highly motivated, and 25% are not very motivated. If Group 1 starts in poor conditions where success is not easy to gain (like a neighborhood I once had the privilege – yes, I consider it such for the empathy it helped me gain – to live in) then perhaps only those 25% who are highly motivated will be able to achieve better things. Those who are normally motivated will stay where they are, and those who are not very motivated might turn to a life of crime because it’s ‘easy’. Group 2 starts in better conditions.. The highly motivated group have the benefits that let them do even better than Group 2. The normally motivated group have less to worry about than Group 1, so can move ahead instead of staying where they are, etc… Obviously this is simplistic, but hopefully it helps point out some of the underlying problems of treating everyone the same if their starting conditions aren’t. Rgamble
I reworked the text somewhat to make it of more international character, leaving the more general comments at the top and moving US-specific info to a section at the bottom. I copyedited a bit, and added an anti-racial-profiling (sense 2) argument I’ve encountered to the appropriate section.
I also checked up on the “15 mph” studies, and couldn’t find said studies or anything verifing them. For instance, a Google search of police black speed white (15 or fifteen) (miles hour or mph) “racial profiling” got 42 hits, none of which discussed the statistic given above. I therefore removed the statement pending verification. — April
It can often be difficult to determine what an advocate’s position on “racial profiling” is, unless they state which definition they are using. Otherwise opposing advocates can each claim that they are against “racial profiling” while taking opposite sides regarding a particular police department’s practices.