How to Avoid Racial ProfilingApril 26, 2010
One of the major concerns with the new Arizona immigration law, apparently, is that it will inspire a wave of racial profiling. At least, that’s what everyone is saying.
I said a few days ago that racial profiling is not the major concern, and I stick with that point. Here’s another way of thinking about what I was saying before, and one that I think is actually implied by this law, if not an impending state of affairs if the law goes into effect.
One way to avoid racial profiling is to apply a law to all races (however described) equally. (Set aside, for the time being, the conceptual absurdity of racial categories.)
So, for instance, one can demonstrate that one is not racially profiling when pulling over speeders by showing that the number of speeders pulled over is roughly proportional to the racial makeup of the driving population. One can also avoid racial profiling at airports by running all passengers, say, through a metal detector before they get on an airplane.
Am I right? Yes, I’m right.
So, since there are no non-arbitrary features that implicate any given person as a citizen or a non-citizen based simply on looks or perception — skin color, accent, language difficulties, many people packed in a car (?), dirty shoes — and since racial profiling is itself illegal, if law enforcement aim to get around the problem of racial profiling, they can just take all comers. Every person they stop, or ever tenth person they stop, should need to produce citizenship papers: whites, blacks, browns, tans — no problem.
Do I support this proposal? No. I don’t support the immigration legislation, and I don’t support this solution. But I don’t support the legislation in part because I don’t support this solution. I would be massively, hysterically, outrageously resentful if some law enforcement officer took it upon himself to ask me for my papers in my own country. I suspect many other Americans would feel the same way.
Further, and here’s one final thought, this law will be uncontested if it works out 100% of the time. If every person pulled over and asked for papers ends up being a non-citizen, then the police will have some serious powers of perception. What, then, of the time that it doesn’t work? The time that they stop a person in the street because they suspect he might be an illegal immigrant, and it turns out that he is not an illegal immigrant, but a full, tax-paying citizen. What will they appeal to? The color of his skin? His accent? His shoes? Seriously, how will they get around the non-arbitrariness charge?
This is an unenforceable and unethical law. It cannot be justified.