Friday, August 18, 2006

The Results Are In...

This will probably be my longest blog. Ever.

Thanks to those of you who took the test. Several folks commented to me off-post as well. The responses were good, but not what I expected in most cases. However, if I were to grade on the all-American "bell curve", I would say that one person got an 'A', one person who only gave a sarcastic reponse got a 'B' for being on the right track, and well, everyone else received a grade. :-p

Note that all three scenarios were true. Nothing was added to or removed from them. The fact that all three scenarios occurred, and specifically, how scenarios 2 and 3 were reported in the news, were my reason for creating the test.

In any event, here are the answers:

1. What is common in all three scenarios?

The answer to this one was easy to overlook, because we do it every day. MyUtopia hit it; Favorite Apron was close when she labeled, er, profiled, the "Dearbornistanians". The commonality? You profiled the people in all three scenarios, probably subconsciously. Note that this profiling really had nothing to do with the outcome of each scenario. I really didn't even need to provide any details about weapons, bags of ice, or flight rosters; I just needed to provide the characteristics of each person, and their location relative to their expected location. Also, any subsequent details relating to each story would have been irrelevant to the first question. By the time I described each person, you profiled them.

Why did you do this? Isn't that an awful, terrible thing? Aren't you a bigoted American if you do that?

It's common, it's appropriate, it's how you learn. You take an observation, compare it against
what you already know or believe, and classify it. If the observation matches your beliefs, it reinforces those beliefs. If it differs from your beliefs, then you retain that information as an exception. What you do with that exception is up to you. Gather enough exceptions, and you may challenge your own belief.

Regardless, you use what you already know to discern the information presented in your new observation. The descriptors I used in each scenario should have made it easy for you to profile each person.

I'm not offended that you profiled the person in scenario #1. For those of you who know me, it is me. And, no, I don't "hang" with Jeffrey Dahmer. :-)

2. Which scenario is not like the other two?

I regularly joke that I like to use my talents for good, and not for evil. So, using that theme - the talent: profiling; use: good or evil? - let's dissect the three scenarios.

1) White male, traditional conservative Christian. The bane of all problems in America; at least, to tolerance-loving America. Bible thumping, proselytizing, prudish, kill-anything-that-moves, flag-waving American. Nope, can't have that. Media and post-modern worldview: baaaaaad, very bad, the most evil class of person in existence.

2) Black male, wrong place, wrong time, wrong "implements". Guilty before proven guilty. But wait, we don't know his motive. He's just a poor, innocent malcontent, again in the wrong place at the wrong time. His family said he's never been a bad kid, so this is just an unfortunate circumstance. Media and post-modern worldview (if it were anyone other than Maurice Clarrett): give him a chance, he's misunderstood, and really wouldn't hurt anybody.

3) Arabs from Dearborn(istan), in rural Ohio, finding places to buy track phones and having dozens of flight rosters. They believe in the "religion of peace". Again, don't assume they are bad, just because they had all the right tools to wreak havoc within the U.S. We must try them through the U.S. courts, run through the legal process, and not offend anyone. Media and post-modern worldview: Again, circumstantial evidence, how dare we automatically
link these two off-beat nationals with all other jihad-inducing Muslims?

So, which one is not like the others? The white male, who is negatively profiled from a social perspective. However, he is not a risk to national or state security, and would more often than not, not think about hurting a fellow human being.

In the other two scenarios, though, we are asked, almost mandated, not to profile, but to grant the benefit of the doubt. Unfortunately, in both of these cases, the men are a risk to national security or the general welfare of their fellow man. They may not be guilty, but wouldn't you rather retain them and learn that before taking the risk that they were going to do something awful? Since I am a Project Manager, let me put on my PM hat: when did it become acceptable, in the course of events, to ignore risks and not work to eliminate them?

Conclusion: profiling is appropriate, when used appropriately.

  • Two Arabs in a car, minding their own business, having no artifacts that could be used to propagate distruction? Leave them alone.
  • Black man, making a u-turn at 3am may have committed a traffic violation, but no weapons in the car? Give him a citation, and, if he's not drunk or high, let him go.
  • White man, flying under radar, except for all those 6' deep holes in his backyard?
Just kidding about that last one. :-)

When used to advance social causes, it is inappropriate; when used for national security, it is altogether appropriate.


Jonathan said...

It's always the trick questions!

My immediate gut reaction was "danger, danger". But know, fearing I would be ridiculed or chastised for judging and acting on the obvious. You are right, in this day in age, we cannot be too careful. We must investigate suspicions. Sometimes it's only one thing or two out of place and may only be witnessed by another citizen that is the key to stopping a crime or finding the responsible party.

Cautious investigation, even profiling can be done decently, like you suggest. And good, law abiding citizens should not mind some inconvenience as it means law enforcement, homeland security etc are doing their jobs and they are safer in the end. Only the guilty should fear.

Favorite Apron said...

So we know that a judge let the guys with the tracphones go because they weren't up to anything, and also that Maurice was bankrolled by an Israeli terrorist group.
Things that make ya go " hmmmmmmmm."

Des_Moines_Girl said...

Great post! You made some excellent points.

Political correctness should never trump common sense.

Hannity made a good point the other day. He said we need "Terror Profiling" not "Racial Profiling." Some may say it's the same thing but it makes sense to me.

MyUtopia said...

You mean you aren't Daumer? Hmmm...
: )
Thanks for the nice words on my blog! I also liked this excerise.