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Racial Profiling

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Back in prehistoric times, before Sept. 11, citizens who follow the administration of the Department of Justice may recall that Attorney General John Ashcroft kept saying that his first priority was to fight racial profiling. After Sept. 11, that seemed a rather peculiar objective, but even before, with millions of illegal aliens roaming the country, it should have struck most Americans as odd.

Now we know that the commitment was even odder than it appeared, since the Justice Department, under Mr. Ashcroft’s control, has tried to cover up a major study showing that blacks violate speeding laws more than other racial groups. If the study is accurate, it might be used to justify racial profiling—maybe even justifiably.

The Washington Times reported last week that Justice in 1999 agreed with the state of New Jersey to study the race of drivers who violate state speed laws. A research group called the Pacific Institute undertook the study, which found black drivers were nearly twice as likely as whites or Hispanics to break the laws when the posted speed limit was 65 miles an hour. When the drivers’ speed is more than 90 miles an hour, the violators are black even more often.

Well, now, we can’t have that busting into the newspapers over the morning coffee, can we? It’s bad enough that after all the pandering to both blacks and Hispanics in the last election, President Bush still performed miserably among voters of both groups, but now his own Justice Department is about to come out with findings that say blacks really do speed more than whites and implying that blacks getting more speeding tickets is not very surprising or even unfair.

Clearly, the study had to gurgle down to the bottom of File 13.

The gurgler-in-chief in this case was Justice Department munchkin Mark Posner, who quickly reached the convenient conclusion that the study was almost certainly flawed. “Based on the questions we have identified,” Mr. Posner wrote in a letter to New Jersey officials, “it may well be that the results reported in the report are wrong or unreliable.” ["Report saying blacks speed more held up," Washington Times, March 22, 2002]

Well, maybe so, but then the report was simple enough in the way it was conducted. Radar guns and high-speed cameras were used to identify the race of some 38,000 drivers on the New Jersey turnpike. Only those whose speed was 15 miles an hour above the limit were identified.

Why Mr. Posner thinks the conclusions reached may be “wrong or unreliable” we’re not told.

One researcher who worked on the study, Robert Voas, doesn’t agree. “We looked at numbers, and that’s what the report shows. We’re quite confident in its validity.”

What we can be quite confident of is that the Justice Department, for reasons of racial politics, suppressed the study—because it wants to pose as the foe of racial profiling, because it wants to avoid the brickbats of “racism” that professional race-baiters have been smacking it with since even before it took office, and because it would really like to pick up more black votes than the pathetic and embarrassing 8 percent it won in 2000.

It’s the Bush administration that’s open to doubt as to its credibility on racial issues – not the report it refuses to publish.

New Jersey itself has an interest in seeing the truth about race differences in speeding come out. It was in New Jersey that the controversy over “racial profiling” led to the forced resignation of the chief of the New Jersey state police and the federal government’s forcing the state to adopt new policies that supposedly discouraged profiling.

But the ugly truth is not only that the Bush Justice Department is suppressing a study that ought to be published but also that policies now in place may be endangering the safety of drivers of all races.

If police ticket black drivers more than white drivers, not because they’re black but because they do in fact violate speeding laws more often, then no injustice is being committed against blacks. If police, for fear of being charged with profiling, ignore speeding violators because they’re black, they’re letting dangerous drivers escape—and thereby endangering all drivers.

Americans have a right to know whether racial differences in speeding violations are real, and the best way to find out is to publish the study the Department intended to publish until it came up with conclusions the Department and the administration didn’t want to hear.

White police officers may have lost their careers or been punished for what could have been entirely justifiable practices, and whites as well as blacks may have lost life and limb because some black speeders were allowed to get away—so the Bush administration can preen in the next election about how its first priority was to fight a practice that may never have existed.

(Republished from VDare by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Race/Ethnicity • Tags: Racial Profiling 
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Speaking before a luncheon hosted by the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith last week, Attorney General John Ashcroft swore eternal enmity to the evil of racial discrimination and its offspring, racial profiling. Discrimination, the attorney general solemnly warned, remains “pervasive,” and needs to be combatted “vigorously.”

That, he continued, is why “racial profiling is an area of special concern to me. It is totally unacceptable and un-American to think that there would be a problem of ‘driving while Hispanic’ or ‘driving while African-American’ in America. I am pleased that the president of the United States … made it clear that he finds racial profiling totally unacceptable, and it’s time to work to make sure that it is not only unacceptable, but … no longer in existence.” As noble as all the oratory may sound, what it may mean is that Mr. Ashcroft really isn’t qualified to be attorney general after all.

“Racial profiling”—the use of known correlations between race and criminal behavior for the purposes of police investigation of crimes—is not only not “unacceptable” but virtually essential for the effective performance of police work. And if it really is abandoned and ceases to exist in the United States, crime—especially crime committed against non-whites—will probably explode.

Two years ago a small foundation called the New Century Foundation issued a report entitled “The Color of Crime.” (PDF download). Written by the foundation’s president, Jared Taylor, an expert on race relations in the United States, the report used U.S. government statistics to show that more than 90 percent of the interracial crime in this country is committed by blacks against whites. That alone is a finding of major significance, but it’s not directly relevant to the controversy about racial profiling.

More relevant is Mr. Taylor’s finding that blacks are arrested for murder at about nine times the rate of whites. Hispanics are arrested for murder about two to three times more often than whites, at least in the state of California, which collects statistics on Hispanic crime rates. Similar correlations between race and robbery are also true.

The statistics for national crime rates are drawn from a federal survey called the National Crime Victimization Survey, which is made up of a representative sample of some 100,000 Americans who have been victims of criminals. The survey asks the victims, among other questions, about the race of the criminals who victimized them. It therefore avoids the possibility that mere arrest records simply reflect the racial biases of the police doing the arresting. Crime victims have no motivation at all to lie about the race of those who commit crimes against them.

But the results of the victimization survey are almost entirely consistent with the results from arrest records. That too is significant, since it suggests that arrests are not the product of police racial bias and indeed that the police are less racially biased in their work than some people would like us to think.

But the really significant finding in Mr. Taylor’s study is that “When it comes to violent crime, blacks are approximately as much more likely to be arrested than whites, as men are more likely to be arrested than women.” That is directly relevant to racial profiling because police make use of “gender profiling” all the time—and no one objects.

It’s close to common knowledge that men are more likely to commit violent crimes than women and that young people are more likely to do so than older people. No one objects to police stopping younger men as more likely suspects in violent crimes than women or older people. No one whines that the police are penalizing citizens for “driving while male” or “driving while young.” For that matter, no one complains that criminal profiling shows that serial killers are almost always white and that police investigations of serial murders almost always concentrate on white males.

Police have to make use of what criminological statistics tell us about who is and who is not likely to commit certain kinds of crimes. If they don’t, there’s no real point in collecting the statistics at all, and we can go back to nineteenth century standards of criminology. Police would no longer be able to distinguish likely suspects from unlikely ones, and they would probably wind up simply not investigating those who happen to belong to certain racial categories. The results of that would be to allow the violent criminals in these categories to go unapprehended.

When that happens, the complaint will be that the police aren’t adequately protecting minorities because they’re “racist.” And probably the first to join up in the posse of whiners, the first to vow that such “discrimination” has no place in America, will be the leading law enforcement officer in the federal government, John Ashcroft.

(Republished from VDare by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Race/Ethnicity • Tags: Racial Profiling 
Sam Francis
About Sam Francis

Dr. Samuel T. Francis (1947-2005) was a leading paleoconservative columnist and intellectual theorist, serving as an adviser to the presidential campaigns of Patrick Buchanan and as an editorial writer, columnist, and editor at The Washington Times. He received the Distinguished Writing Award for Editorial Writing of the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) in both 1989 and 1990, while being a finalist for the National Journalism Award (Walker Stone Prize) for Editorial Writing of the Scripps Howard Foundation those same years. His undergraduate education was at Johns Hopkins and he later earned his Ph.D. in modern history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

His books include The Soviet Strategy of Terror(1981, rev.1985), Power and History: The Political Thought of James Burnham (1984); Beautiful Losers: Essays on the Failure of American Conservatism (1993); Revolution from the Middle: Essays and Articles from Chronicles, 1989–1996 (1997); and Thinkers of Our Time: James Burnham (1999). His published articles or reviews appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, National Review, The Spectator (London), The New American, The Occidental Quarterly, and Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture, of which he was political editor and for which he wrote a monthly column, “Principalities and Powers.”