Saturday, November 21, 2009

Holder targets racial profiling in Detroit speech

The Detroit News article "Holder targets racial profiling in Detroit speech" (November 20th, 2009) highlights U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder's misunderstanding of optimizing use of law enforcement resources.

"Racial profiling is simply not good law enforcement," said Holder, who told the crowd that he was racially profiled in the 1970s as a college student.

Holder is wrong. One should further say that racial profiling is not racially discriminatory, insofar as it is not marked by unfair distinction between different categories of people. This is not to say that racism isn't possible. Let us take traffic stops. The marginal arrest of a black man should yield the same result as a marginal arrest for a white man. Let us say that the police have 10 traffic stops to make, between 10 black and 10 whites. If the 7th worst black man is equally likely to be bad as the 3rd worst white man, then we can say that pulling over 70% of blacks and 30% of whites is not racist--it's treating all criminals equally.

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