Just Cuz vs. Just Cause:
The Wisdom and Necessity of Profiling
by Victor Wolzek
Last month (12/2/01), in the wake of 9/11 and in the thick of "The War on Terror," 60 Minutes spotlighted the currently hot topic of racial profiling. Per usual, reason and common sense were repeatedly drowned out by pat, reductive, pseudo-appeals to constitutionality: "You cannot single out individuals just cuz they look a certain way, just cuz they have a certain name, just cuz they share a certain faith, etc." Though this may sound noble and patriotic, especially when it is paired up with heart-tugging footage of Japanese Americans being herded into camps after Pearl Harbor, it cloaks a rhetorical sleight of hand. The "just cuz" reduction of the whole to its parts obscures the "just cause" established by the totality of those parts. "Just cuz" pseudo-arguments deny the context and multiple factors that comprise a useful criminal profile.
While 60 Minutes and most journalists are currently focusing on the issue of profiling Arabs, the ACLU, the Rainbow Coalition, and other opportunist organizations have been beating the DWB (Driving While Black) drum for a long time. The latter issue -- the profiling of young black males -- is actually far more relevant to Americans. Despite the horrific event in New York and the 24-hour CNN coverage of the war in Afghanistan, "Arabs terrorists" are relatively rare and, despite the hype, have done little damage. They destroyed landmarks and killed a total of approximately 4,000 Americans (the WTC buildings were far emptier than originally expected), including the anthrax victims and war casualties. The street terrorism that comes largely in the form of young black males is much quieter but far more catastrophic to individual victims and to American culture as a whole.
As for curbing this far more prolific street terrorism, I am for profiling as standard police procedure. I also see it as an unavoidable, practical necessity. Not profiling minorities per se, but profiling whatever groups are known to commit the most crime. If it's blacks (it is), profile them, if it's Mexicans (yup), profile them. It's different city to city, county to county (though where blacks and Mexicans go, the crime surely follows: is it racist if it's true?). Formally race is but one element in a spectrum of factors that an officer considers when he judges the probability of criminal activity in a situation (others include age, sex, location of activity, etc; in short, it's contextual). A cop is not likely to give a second thought to a 70-year-old woman in a Chevy Impala, but a 20-year-old black man touring the projects in a souped-up Benz pumping NWA's "Fuck the Police" is inviting extra attention. He expects to get it from the "bitches," why not the cops, too? (I don't know about blacks, but Hispanic street drug peddlers in San Francisco know this and use it to their advantage. On Geary Street, it is common to see young wigger-dressed teenage hispanic kids hanging on corners, taking orders and money, then running over to their mother -- often pregnant and pushing a baby carriage--dropping off the money and returning with cellophane-wrapped nuggets for the customer).
Failing to pay special attention to known high-rate offenders in the name of egalitarianism sacrifices the safety of real citizens in the name of a theoretical -- and patently false -- ideal. Its also bad economics, an inefficient use of finite resources. Plus, it goes against the grain of common sense. If it's wrong to profile individuals who fit a criminal type, wouldn't it also be wrong to profile neighborhoods known for rampant criminality?
To put it in a real-life geographical context, forbidding law enforcement from profiling would be like insisting the San Francisco Police Department patrol crime-free areas like the wealthy Pacific Heights district as thoroughly as the crime-riddled Tenderloin District (where I once lived for over three years). In Baltimore, it would be comparable to forcing cops to patrol lush Dulaney Valley suburbs as thoroughly and regularly as decrepit city neighborhoods that are well-known as open-air drug markets. In effect, it mandates that officers attend to older, wealthy White people walking dogs in elite areas as diligently as they do young, poor men of color drinking "forties" outside of liquor stores in high-crime "hoods," lest they be charged with racism. That's not only illogical, it's just plain stupid.
Though racism is real for a reason, paying special attention to high-crime areas or groups (which does not equal harassing them) is not racist in principle. If liberals really believed their own rhetoric and were truly interested in improving the lives of minorities instead of just ruining the lives of Whites, their argument would be as follows: "Insofar as high crime areas are disproportionately populated by minorities, most of whom are not criminals, the extra attention serves to protect minorities most. The fact is," they would continue, "good people of all ethnicities in high-crime areas want more police around and want shady characters watched more closely."
But, as usual, they are not interested in anything except further destabilizing and destroying White communities and culture. Rather than do this outright, they create the kind of confusing, quasi-racist racism-folded-back-on-itself situation we have with profiling in urban America. Not only is it difficult to imagine law-abiding citizens of any ethnicity preferring criminal victimization to the inconvenience of being stopped or questioned when innocent. It is also all too easy to imagine the same anti-profiling activists accusing the police of racism or race-based neglect when they discover that officers are giving equal patrol time to wealthy white neighborhoods. The cops can't win. And that's the point.*
Cynical, anti-police policies such as this should be implemented only with an express, public caveat: when crime in bad areas escalates because police are giving crime-free areas equal attention, they must hold their "leaders" and activists accountable for the injustice. Not the police who've done their bidding.
*Though it wasn't the focus of this article, the Jewish stance on profiling is clear, and it follows their consistent measure: is it good for...oh, you know. In Israel, for instance, the profiling of Arabs 'just cuz' they're Arabs, regardless of any other factors or context is the rule, and has been for years. Now that Arabs in America are working against Jewish interests, it's totally kosher to profile them as well. Profiling murderous, rioting, raping, stealing, chronic-hazed young black males, the 3% of the poulation responsible for approximately 70% of all crime? It's racism and cannot be tolerated. Profiling an almost wholly benign population because it's the one ethnic group in America that's seen the Jew-monstrosity up close and personally and knows it ought to be nailed to the wall like a jellyfish? Oy Vey! Do it today!