The flaws of racial profiling
August 27, 2006
By Christina Abraham
Civil Rights coordinator, Chicago Chapter Council on American-Islamic Relations
While proponents of racial profiling such as columnist Jonah Goldberg argue that profiling "makes sense" and therefore should be allowed into the policies of law-enforcement officials, in actuality racial profiling is inefficient in terms of security and illegal in terms of law.
In his opinion piece "Face it: Profiling makes sense; Race should be factor in detaining travelers" (Commentary, Aug. 18), Goldberg argues that U.S. Customs and Border Protection should allow its officers to racially profile Middle Eastern and Asian travelers, instead of investing in technology that would more accurately detect possible transgressors.
Goldberg's argument is flawed.
First, though proponents of racial profiling can't seem to grasp it, racial profiling is simply not efficient as a method of detecting possible violators of the law. By adopting a policy of racial profiling, law enforcement would limit its scope to a narrow group of people. Would-be transgressors would merely need to make sure that the people carrying out the mission do not fit the profile.
Second, and more important, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers do not only have to watch out for potential terrorist threats. CBP must be able to detect kidnappers, drug traffickers, weapons smugglers and other violators of U.S. and international law. The task of the CBP officer is to detect any illegal activity involving travel. In order to better help them do their job, and minimize instances of officers violating the civil rights of travelers, better technology is needed to be able to efficiently and accurately detect the real threats--not people who look like they fit the stereotype of the person who should be suspected of being a threat.
What we would essentially end up with is security policy based on stereotypical attitudes put forth against a wide array of minorities in the United States. Hispanics, African-Americans, Asians and Middle Easterners would all be affected by such policies, and nobody would be any safer.
The neoconservative policies of racial profiling are in themselves part of the problem; those policies actually contribute to fueling the security threats that currently face this country.
Indeed Middle Eastern and Muslim Americans often feel that they are the targets of hostility in an otherwise tolerant atmosphere. Indicative of the hostility toward them in American policy is Goldberg's very comment that "100 percent of them [terrorists] are Muslim."
Goldberg puts forth such racist assertions as fact, which are then used as evidence to promote his arguments.
Proponents of the theory that terrorism is exclusively a Muslim proprietorship part with history's rendition of the facts. A cursory survey of the history of terrorism lists various groups with diverse backgrounds and motivations.
The founders of the State of Israel resorted to such tactics against the British as did Irish, Basque and Tamil separatist groups, some of whom remain active today.
More important, to advocate racial profiling would be to show utter ignorance of U.S. law and the rights guaranteed to every individual living in this country by the Constitution.
Applying uniform policy in passenger screening is not discriminatory; it is upholding the tenets of American justice.
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