CalPundit points out about racial profiling by police in Los Angeles:
Among people who were pulled over:
- 3.5% of whites were frisked and 5% were searched.
- 12% of Latinos were frisked and 18.5% were searched.
- 14.7% of blacks were frisked and 18.7% were searched
- Police searched blacks at about four times the rate of whites, but also found contraband at about four times the rate, which makes the search rate seem defensible on non-racial grounds. On the other hand, they found contraband on Hispanics at only twice the rate of whites, which makes the 4x search rate look pretty dubious.
- The arrest rates seem even more troubling, since this is a good indication of whether anything serious was going on. For both blacks and Hispanics the search rate is 4x the white search rate, but the arrest rate is only about double. This seems to indicate that the LAPD’s “suspiciousness radar” was tuned rather higher for blacks and Hispanics than for whites.
It’s true that data like this needs careful study, certainly something more careful than an amateur like me can give it. On the other hand, it does seem to indicate that the LAPD treats blacks and Hispanics with rather more suspicion than is justified, and race seems to be a part of it.
POSTSCRIPT I: One last comment: my snarky remark about affirmative action in yesterday’s post had a serious side to it: conservatives typically claim that, yes, there is probably still some racism in our society, but the best way for the government to respond is to just set a good example and be absolutely color blind. Eventually society will follow.
But if that’s true, then why isn’t it equally true for racial profiling? The liberal response might be, sure, maybe blacks commit more crimes than whites, but the best way to respond to this is to ignore it and have police act in a completely color blind manner. Eventually the problem will solve itself.
Is racism still alive? I would say pretty much so though it has definitely decreased from historical levels. Is racial profiling a good thing? I concede that in some cases it might provide police with some help but it also impedes them in a number of ways. For example, a profile of Middle Eastern men would never have caught Richard Reid or Jose Padilla. Also, racial profiling of African Americans smacks too much of Jim Crow. Another very important way in which racial profiling creates problems for the police is by fraying the relationship between law enforncement and the minority in question. And that is something most conservatives, especially those belonging to the white majority, don’t understand at all. Randall Kennedy in an article in the New Republic argued for banning racial profiling due to the same reasons.