The Lack of Logic in Racial Profiling

Originally posted on July 4th on an older version of this blog
Ran across this on tumblr this morning and after I read through the comments, thought it would be perfect to post here. The video they are referring to can be found in this article or you can watch the video here.
“Listen, I’m gonna be honest with you, and this is a practice I engage in every time I’m stopped by law enforcement. And I taught this to my son who is now 33 as part of my duty as a father to ensure that he knows the kind of world in which he is growing up. So when I get stopped by the police, I take my hat off and my sunglasses off, I put them on the passenger’s side, I roll down my window, I take my hands, I stick them outside the window and on the door of the driver’s side because I want that officer to be relaxed as possible when he approaches my vehicle. And I do that because I live in America.”

I’m glad Levar kept it real.
Levar is correct and it is good that he explains this. However, people are going to have very different reactions to this because they will have different opinions on how much of the blame for this unfortunate indignity belongs to bad cops and how much belongs to the black criminals whose existence alters the rational probability estimates people make when seeing black men.
I don’t actually mind if someone’s opinion on this blame-allocation differs from mine; I just don’t want them to pretend it’s 100%-0% or 0%-100% and I don’t want them to declare discussion of the question off limits.
That sounds a lot like some victim blamin horseshit
cool story using Bayesian probability to mask your racism
LTMC: @Polymathblogger: Arrest rates and conviction rates are not a proxy for criminal behavior.  You’re not accounting for several layers of subjectivity.  Arrest rates and conviction rates only indicate who the police are actuallychoosing to arrest, and who the prosecutors are choosing to charge, and who juries are choosing to convict of those crimes.  As I noted back in 2011:
Imagine you have two groups of individuals: call them A and B.  Let us assume that both Group A and B participate in behavior that is punishable as a crime at equal rates.
Now let us imagine that the police are allowed wide discretion in whom they investigate for crime.  Obviously, if the police decide to pay closer attention to one group rather than the other, they will discover more crimes within that group, and thus, make more arrests.  But remember that both Group A and B participate in behavior punishable as crime at roughly equivalent rates. Yet because the police pay extra-close attention to Group B, more of Group B’s members end up in jail.  This gives people the impression that members of Group B are more likely to be criminals, even thought Group A participates in illegal behavior at the same rate as Group B.
When police disproportionately investigate minorities for crime, as they certainly do, it should not surprise anyone that a larger percentage of the minority population stands convicted of criminal behavior.  It doesn’t mean non-Blacks aren’t participating in the same behavior.  It means they aren’t getting caught because the police aren’t subjecting them to a similar level of scrutiny.
This is why statistics without critical theory are not useful.  When you don’t evaluate the subjective elements in your data, you get bad conclusions, i.e. that there are more Black criminals, and thus,  the “rational probability estimates” of the general population are altered in response to heightened Black criminality.  There is no heightened Black criminality.  Just (conscious and unconscious) racist policing.
This post gets directly to the reason racial profiling is not just wrong, but dangerous. So many more crimes can be committed by a group of people, just because of our assumptions. This is a examplar of how our assumptions can lead us the wrong way and why logic should play a greater role in how we conduct ourselves as a society and education should be held to a higher regard. In a nation that should- and claims to- pride itself on its acceptance of others and strides towards social justice, things such as this are still a major problem.
Hopefully we see, through the logic placed in that last comment- not only how racial profiling is logically wrong and should not be blamed on the targets (as one other commenter illogically would have it) but we can also see that it is costing us numerous lives with so much more potential because after centuries and millennia we still haven’t mentally evolved to the point where skin color isn’t the largest determining factor in your initial view of someone.
This is Where I Stand.

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