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The odd dichotomy of profiling

December 16, 2014

Sort of lost in the furor over the release of the so-called torture report was AG Holder’s strengthening or expansion of anti-profiling rules for Federal law enforcement personnel.

We get nightly shots of demonstrators all focused on one narrative, and that narrative certainly profiles one group as victims and another as oppressors. The majority of both of those groups tend to have easily identifiable characteristics.

Lady Justice is supposed to be blind, so it’s obvious that we should expect people to be arrested for their actions, not their race, country of origin, gender or religious beliefs.

The rub comes when a large majority of the people committing bad actions seem to come from one identifiable group. Are they being targeted because of behavior or external appearances?

The first thing you often hear is that the offender was targeted solely because of one of the forbidden social or biological identifiers. The reason the person was on law enforcement radar becomes lost in the resulting furor.

Yet, when there is money to be awarded or spent, it’s perfectly OK to direct it to a group that could just as well be specifically defined by one of those identifiers.

The justification is that the funds are received because of their condition, for instance poverty or illiteracy, and not due to any racial, ethnic or religious attributes.  In certain cases the majority of the people having good things done for them will share certain common visible characteristics, meaning that the charge of profiling could be just as fairly applied in those cases.

We should treat everyone fairly and complain vociferously when that doesn’t happen. That includes punishing aberrant behavior as fairly as we excuse it.

Only when our government can recognize what equality really is, will we be able to get past the government-sponsored divisiveness that still threatens to consume us, 150 years after the government sought to end it.

From → op-ed

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