the Racial Profiling Debate
November 21, 2001
RECENTLY SAN DIEGO CONGRESSMAN Darrell Issa described
on Fox News his first racial profiling experience.
"My last name
is Issa," the congressman told Hannity and Colmes. "You know,
it’s a very common name in the Middle East. Without a doubt, there
are terrorists who have that as part of their name."
Due to his
Lebanese name, Rep. Issa was not allowed to board his flight, but he
is tolerant of the reasons why: "It’s human nature. And we’re making
sacrifices, including understanding that this is going to
Indeed. A few
weeks after the terrorist attacks, I had a similar experience while
entering a large production studio in Hollywood.
I drove up to
the gate, and was asked to show identification. After handing over
my driver’s license, the officer crunched up his forehead: "How do
you pronounce your last name?"
He went inside
his little booth to riffle through papers. Meanwhile I recalled the
e-mails I had received from friends asking me if I was related to
this or that "Kabbani" mentioned in news stories after the attacks.
The officer came out of his booth and said, "Ma’am, please pull your
car over to the right, step out of the car, and allow it to be
Like Rep. Issa,
my last name is also common in the Middle East, although most spell
it with an "I." And, like Rep. Issa, I understand that racial
profiling is something our law enforcement officers need to do to
ensure our safety. But I’d like to take this thought process one
If it is
acceptable to racially profile people from the Middle East to stop
terrorists, why is it unacceptable to profile others for similar
reasons? In fact, the whole debate over whether racial profiling is
acceptable appears to have been resolved.
"In (a) Gallup
Poll, 71 percent of black respondents said they would favor
requiring Arabs, including those who are U.S. citizens, to undergo
special, more intensive security checks before boarding airplanes,"
states the Boston Globe. "Asked whether they favor or oppose
requiring Arabs, including U.S. citizens, to carry special
identification as a means of preventing terrorist attacks, 64
percent of blacks said yes."
understand the logic behind why law enforcement officers need to
racially profile Middle Easterners. Because 100 percent of the
people who killed 5,000 Americans on Sept. 11 and 100 percent of the
FBI’s most wanted terrorists are from that part of the world, there
needs to be special attention given for everyone’s
for profiling young black men who exhibit certain types of behavior
follow the same logic. "While less than 13 percent of the
population, blacks commit more than 50 percent of all murders, more
than 40 percent of rapes, almost 60 percent of robberies, and more
than half of all violent crime," explains Larry Elder in a recent
column. "Young black men, ages 15 to 24, while only
one percent of the population, commit up to 20 percent of all
To quote Jonah Goldberg, "The
unpleasant reality of racial profiling is that it works." He must be
right, otherwise why would we bother profiling Middle Easterners
My car was
searched because of my last name. Fine. Not only can I accept it, I
can understand it. I have nothing to hide, and if I was
inconvenienced for ten minutes, it was for the greater good, right?
For society’s safety.
Similarly, if a
robbery or rape occurs in a large, urban area and a young, black
male is suspect – and a young black male fitting the description is
pulled over and searched and let go when he is found innocent –
should he, too, accept and understand? Yes.
work is all about profiling," explains former Los Angeles chief deputy sheriff Bud
Hansen in the Seattle Times, who spent six of
his 30-year career in Watts, and another four in an L.A.
barrio. "Sometimes race is part of that and sometimes not.
Bottom line: Street police work cannot be done without profiles
based on people, times, and places. Every young cop learns
that early on and practices it thereafter, and it has nothing to do
with racial prejudice."
goes on to explain that the only real problem arises when a police
officer cannot reasonably articulate why he stopped a suspect, or if
the police officer was disrespectful. Other than that, he says, "The
issue is not that profiling took place, because it must be