We’re talking a lot about racial profiling at ColorLines lately. There’s SB 1070, and today we posted a video of young black men in Brooklyn describing how they live with being profiled by NYPD, as a matter of policy, every day. It’s easy to get lost in this conversation. I was speaking with a reporter about Arizona last week and was reminded that, too often, we skip past the basic principles and into the ideological and legalistic debates. We fail to answer, simply, what’s wrong with profiling? Why shouldn’t NYPD stop lots of young black men in a high-crime neighborhood where lots of legitimate suspects are young black men? Why shouldn’t cops in Arizona be able to make policing choices based on assumptions about who is likely to be undocumented? Well, ColorLines commenter Migzilla Candia breaks it down in a comment thread on Joe Arpaio’s arrest-a-thon last week:
We all make those assumptions. But do you want a law based on assumptions? Maybe you’re OK with that, but many aren’t. That’s the point of this debate. Maybe most people would assume a Muslim at the airport could be a terrorist (which of course is wrong), but do you think it OK for cops to be allowed to make those assumptions too? Should cops be able to harass Muslims IN CASE they are terrorists? Should they follow blacks inside a store in case they are stealing? Should women be suspicious of all men because they may be rapists? How about Catholic priests? Are they all molestors? The answer is obviously NO. So why don’t Hispanics deserve this same level of respect? Yes, we all make assumptions, but cops are not always allowed to.