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July 19, 2013

What profiling actually entails
Posted by Patrick at 02:51 PM * 23 comments

This hidden-camera video (sorry, can’t embed it) was actually made several years ago. It’s been linked to a lot in the last few days. Honestly, if you haven’t seen it, take the four and a half minutes and do so.

As Quinn Murphy observed on Twitter the other day, in its pared-down essence, racism is about who we mistrust, and who we give the benefit of the doubt. This video dramatizes the arbitrariness of that—spectacularly.

Comments on What profiling actually entails:
#1 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2013, 03:34 PM:

I'll have to remember not to do things like break into my own house. That's the sort of thing for which I could get arrested.

#2 ::: beth meacham ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2013, 03:58 PM:

It's a spectacular demonstration of systemic racism.

It also demonstrates that if you want to run a bike-stealing ring, recruit a bunch of pretty girls. Would almost certainly work with cars, too.

#3 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2013, 05:17 PM:

@ Fragano Ledgister #1:

You could have a healing Beer Summit!

#4 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2013, 05:18 PM:

Fragano @1, yeah, that sort of thing has been known to happen.

#5 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2013, 06:13 PM:

I suspect Fragano is well aware of that and was implicitly referring to it.

#6 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2013, 06:18 PM:

If you're black, you can be arrested even if you have the key to the house you're buying. I don't have that link handy at the moment, but I do have this one -- even being a cop won't save you if you're black and not in uniform.

#7 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2013, 06:40 PM:

Lee #6

I recall the case you're thinking of, Lee, but without recalling the gentleman's name it's hard to google.

So I'll give you this one instead: Black Man Arrested, Fired From Job For Trying To Cash Large Check

#9 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2013, 07:28 PM:

Beth Meacham #2: Recruit a bunch of pretty white girls. That's crucial.

#10 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2013, 07:29 PM:

Michael Weholt #3: I'd need presidential intervention for that.

Avram #4: See PNH's #5.

#11 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2013, 07:32 PM:

Jim Macdonald #7: That is rifuckingdiculous. I am willing to bet that the idiot who started the whole thing not only still has a job but probably feels aggrieved that anyone made a fuss about it.

#12 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2013, 07:34 PM:

Lee/Jim: I remember that story. There are parts of Georgia where the darkness has not lifted.

#13 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2013, 08:14 PM:

Check me if I'm wrong, but "profiling" is the high-tech word for "prejudice," right?

#14 ::: beth meacham ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2013, 09:25 PM:

Frangano @9 -- you are correct.

#15 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2013, 09:43 PM:

beth, #2/#9: I had an interesting discussion once with a friend (my age, also white and middle-class) about how, if we were so inclined, we could make a shit-ton of money as drug mules. Whitebread soccer-mom types driving mini-vans? We'd never get pulled over in a million years.

#16 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2013, 02:32 AM:

Jim @13

The family statistician once pointed out to me that the difference between profiling and prejudice is the quality of the data you use and the (jargon-word) confidence you have in the results.

Anecdotal data is prejudice.

And the way people are distributed, the patterns that show in such things as crime stats, things such as skin colour just aren't statistically significant. They can be a sign, in some places, that a person is a stranger, and that status has more significance, but the percentage of criminals is still low when you look at the strangers.

Here in the UK, it's just hit the news that crime figures have, generally, dropped. One source is crime levels recorded by the police, and the comment threads are full of people say the police fail to record crimes. They're not liars, but it's anecdotal data from a few hundred people out of some 60 million. And the figures are confirmed by another source, which is a survey of ordinary people. They go out and ask people about their experience of crime.

One of the possible causes of this drop is not the improved performance of the Police. The elimination of lead in petrol has to be part of it. Curiously, the reported increase in fraud may be a confirmation. If we have far fewer brain-damaged school leavers, the other reasons for criminal behaviour may be leading to "smarter" crime, the sort of activity that depends on having some intellectual capacity.

But if Policing policy is being set by people who are some twenty years older, based on their experience, their image of crime will be set by the era of lead-damaged criminals. And the targets are not where they are looking.

Just to be clear, sub-clinical brain damage from environmental lead need not create criminals. But it may affect the types of crime committed. And the age-related differences in the rates of this damage may make it easier for a 20 yo criminal to defraud a 40 yo victim.

It also looks a partial cause of the improvements in the results of school examinations. The politicians, old enough to have suffered effects from lead, are complaining about exams being easier.

Me, I'm in that age group, but I grew up in the rural environment, with much lower levels of lead. And my meetings with politicians are certainly consistent with some of them being exposed to higher levels of lead. But that's anecdotal evidencesnark.

#17 ::: David ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2013, 10:37 AM:

@Jim #13 - Profiling is active. Prejudice is passive. Profiling is one of the ways one can put prejudice into specific action.

#18 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2013, 11:37 AM:

See also:

"The Taxonomic Obsession: Profiling as a 4GW Tactical Error" by Myke Cole

On Point: Counterterrorism Journal (January, 2006) Reprinted in Journal of Counterterrorism and Homeland Security International (August, 2006)

#19 ::: Galleymac ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2013, 06:22 PM:

@#1 When I was 14, I did lock myself out of my house, and climbed back in it through a first story window, wearing large blue ribbon ties in my pigtails (it was a different time) and a very blatant plaid school uniform skirt, and someone going by in a car did indeed send police to my house. I thought leaning 2/3rds of my body out the window and waving at the car with both hands and mouthing I LIVE HERE, MY MOM AND DAD ARE NOT HOME repeatedly would prove me less suspicious than someone trying to run away or hide. It did not. When the police came to my house and I answered the door, I was in a Snoopy-themed housecoat and mopping the floor (and 14) which convinced them. (This was a couple of years before LaTasha Harlins was killed.)

#20 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2013, 03:23 PM:

Another Shopping While Black case:

Plainclothes detectives hauled Christian off Fifth Avenue and into the local precinct.

There, Christian produced his identification, his debit card from Chase and the receipt with his name on it, the suit states.

"In spite of producing such documentation, Christian was told that his identification was false and that he could not afford to make such an expensive purchase."

#21 ::: Cheryl ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2013, 03:52 PM:

And another one.

"Kayla Phillips, 21, says she was swarmed by four plainclothes cops after using her debit card to buy a $2,500 orange suede CĂ©line bag."

#22 ::: Cheryl has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2013, 03:53 PM:

Probably for a link to a newspaper.

#23 ::: Bill Stewart considers spam musubi ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2014, 07:53 PM:

Spam from French Persons.

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