The Flaws of Racial Profiling

In response to the Chicago Tribune article: “Face it: Profiling makes sense; Race should be factor in detaining travelers”
While proponents of racial profiling such as Jonah Goldberg argue that racial 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 article “Face it: Profiling makes sense; Race should be factor in detaining travelers,” 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 for several reasons. 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 their 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 importantly, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) 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 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.

Perhaps the neoconservatives would argue that racial profiling is acceptable even then. 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 main flaw with the neoconservative argument is that it completely fails at cutting to the root cause of the problem. 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. It is also those same policies that sometimes make Middle Eastern and Asian Americans feel they are being targeted and discriminated against by the law enforcement officials they are supposed to entrust to protect them.

Indeed, Middle Eastern and Muslim Americans often feel that they are the targets of hostility in an otherwise tolerant atmosphere. Indicative of the hostility towards them in American policy is Goldberg’s very comment that “100 percent of them [terrorists] are Muslim” [his emphasis]. Neoconservatives such as Goldberg put forth such racist assertions as fact, which are then used as evidence to promote their arguments. When an intoxicated Mel Gibson made the statement that all of the world’s wars are started by the Jews, even the neoconservatives were quick to denounce his comment as racist and completely inappropriate. A (presumably) sober Goldberg, however, makes the statement that all terrorists are Muslim and his hypocrisy completely escapes him.

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. Terrorism is a military tactic that was documented as early as the French Revolution. The founders of the State Israel resorted to such tactics against the British as did Irish, Basque, and Tamil separatist groups, some of whom remain active today.

More importantly, to advocate racial profiling would be to show utter disregard for U.S. law, and the rights guaranteed to every individual living in this country by the Constitution. Applying uniform policy in passenger screening, and every other area of law enforcement, is not discriminatory, as neoconservatives like Goldberg assert. It is upholding the tenets of American justice, as put forth by the Constitution and other legislative acts.

It is disturbing to note the ease by which those in the neoconservative right seem to do away with the rule of law in furtherance of their narrow political goals, which, ironically, they always claim is the preservation of American values. But at the core of American values is a fundamental belief in the rule of law, and thus the essential hypocrisy of the neoconservative paradigm becomes evident.