Monday, August 08, 2005

Political Correctness Will Be The Rope By Which They Hang Us

There is such a thing as virtue, and then there is blind stupidity. Those possessed of wisdom can tell the difference. Those possessed of pride and arrogance cannot.

It is virtuous (if not moral and legal) to treat people of different races in the exact same way. God indeed did create us equally and designed us to afford one another the same rights and responsibilities that others have. It is wrong to have different intellectual and moral expectations of persons based upon their ethnicity and skin color, because history has proven that same need not be a barrier to excellence and success; it just depends upon the motivation of the individual.

To speak more specifically, it is wrong to "racially profile" as that term has been used in America. Pulling over a black man in a Lexus--solely because the officer has a racist presumption about how a minority may come by an expensive car--is repugnant both legally and morally. And stopping people of Middle Eastern descent because one thinks that they might be terrorists is equally misguided. In this case, racial profiling has nothing to do with a profile at all, but rather a racial or ethnic stereotype.

A profile is different.

A profile is a set of characteristics based upon factors which are known about perpetrators of crimes. There are things that can be discerned, for example about child molesters and abusers. They tend to be adult males, people who like to hang around children, tend to be better educated than most, seem to be pillars of the community, and seek to have opportunities to be alone with individual children. It is also how we catch serial killers, rapists, and the like. And it's a similar game with terrorists.

They tend to be male, Middle-Eastern in descent, Muslim, young, may appear nervous at or near a public place where they plan on perpetrating a terror act, may be mumbling (praying before performing an act), carrying a large bag or wearing an unnecessary large coat, and just behaving unusually. Any grouping of a few of these factors would certainly tip one off to the fact that an individual may need more attention from security personnel. All of them together mandate an immediate interdiction.

And profiles do break down. In London, the police chased a swarthy looking man in the tubes who was wearing a long coat and who ran from them when they told him to stop. Not only did he run, he hopped a turnstile before he was cornered and shot. But he need not have died. The cause of his death was not the lawfully fired police bullets, but rather his own stupidity. He wasn't Middle Eastern, and he wore the coat and ran from the cops for reasons known only to him.

But the point of profiles is that they have some statistical validity, otherwise law enforcement wouldn't bother with them. But refusing to use them because they sometimes involve race or ethnicity ignores the realities of the world and reflects a willing and dangerous ignorance. And it wastes law enforcement and intelligence resources. Transportation Secretary, Norman Mineta is indeed a fool, as he restricts the TSA from performing any profiling. Mineta needs to realize that frisking granny makes us no safer, makes a mockery of our security, and does not not make us appear noble and high-minded. It makes us look stupid.

True indeed that al Qaeda is trying to find new recruits that don't fit the profile. But if we keep avoiding their profile, to make ourselves feel less bigoted or racist, they may not have to bother. True, they may part from the Arab appearance, but it's unlikely that they are going for little old ladies.

We have a chance to catch them and stop them if we pay attention to known realities. All of the 9/11 hijackers were young Middle Eastern Muslim men cloistered together and behaving oddly in the months before they attacked. No, not all young Middle Eastern men think and behave alike, but the motivations likely to be of interest to authorities than those of old while-haired ladies. But a refusal to use that knowledge because some cranks may raise the tired old cry of racism, and a desire to appear on the political cutting edge, is blind stupidity borne of pride and arrogance.

And that gets people killed.

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