Profiling: Not 100% avoidable, and also subject to different race/gender standard

A couple of thoughts about profiling, a topic that’s been discussed many times already:

  1. I don’t think that profiling is 100% preventable. Even if an agency or government lays down specific regulations prohibiting profiling, you can’t control what a TSA screener or police officer is thinking inside. If there has been a spate of hijackings or bombings involving Arab men, for instance, then an airport-security screener is likely to take a longer look at a nervous-looking, suspicious-bulky-belt-wearing Arab man traveling by himself than a happy, relaxed, white Caucasian couple pushing a baby stroller. Even if the screener doesn’t call the Arab passenger over for additional screening, the profiling has already happened in the screener’s mind and the screener paid additional attention. This is human nature; you can’t prevent it.

In other words, even if you can prevent most of the external profiling measures - i.e., stopping and frisking someone based on their skin color or appearance - the internal, mental profiling still exists. A cop may look at someone longer if they have a suspicious appearance.

  1. Society seems a lot more comfortable with profiling on the basis of gender than on the basis of race. Profiling someone because they’re Arab or black is likely to lead to backlash, but somehow profiling men as potential threats because of gender is still viewed as widely acceptable. Many women talk openly about taking precautions when going out on a date with a man, for instance, and men are widely considered to pose more of a criminal or violent threat than women. (It is true, of course, that men commit a higher rate of violent crime per capita than women, but then again, you could apply that logic to race - every single one of the 9/11 hijackers was Arab, etc.)

If it is unacceptable to profile people of a particular race or ethnicity because they commit a higher per capita rate of a certain type of crime, then why is it acceptable to profile men just because men commit more crime per capita than women? Or, conversely, if it is acceptable to profile men based on gender because they commit a higher rate of crime per capita than women, then why is it unacceptable to profile people of a particular race or ethnicity because they too commit a higher rate per capita of a certain type of crime?
(That was really wordy, hope it doesn’t make people’s eyes glaze over.)

There is a difference between the government or a representative of the government such as a cop profiling and an individual woman profiling men for her personal safety. I don’t think they can be equated morally. I don’t really get where you are going with the female profiling men thing, a heterosexual woman presumably only dates men so where does the profiling come into play? I would presume she would take the same precautions with any man.

The word profiling, used without context or modifiers, pretty much always means “profiling based on appearance.” There are legitimate forms of profiling such as that based on actions and general behavior. It will be helpful if posters to this thread are clear in which form they use it, although making the assumption that it means “based on appearance” will probably work as long as no one confuses the issues.

I think you’re really losing sight of the actual statistics here. The important question is not “What percentage of Bad Thing X are committed by Person Type Y?”, but rather, “What percentage of Person Type Y are likely to commit Bad Thing X?”

In other words, when you say that statistically, a particular type of crime is disproportionately likely to be committed by Muslims, you’re overlooking the fact that the average random Muslim is still very UNlikely to commit such a crime. If maybe one in 1000 or 10000 US Muslims poses any kind of security threat, then giving special scrutiny to all Muslims on the basis of their Muslim identity is a ridiculous waste of resources.

You’re better off trying to screen for characteristics that really are very strongly linked to commission of crimes. Such as, for example, carrying a bomb in one’s suitcase. Evidence indicates that an extremely high proportion of people who do that are likely to commit violent crimes.
As for the “women screening men on dates” thing, it’s already been pointed out that individuals in their private social lives are allowed to discriminate in ways that would be illegal if applied by government authorities in their official duties.

But another thing worth keeping in mind is that, sadly, being male does correlate with scary behavior much more strongly than being Muslim correlates with being a terrorist. Studies indicate that at least 20% of American men report having perpetrated some form of sexual assault, and 5% report having committed rape. Those are not very reassuring odds.

And when you consider that what women are trying to avoid includes not only actual rape and sexual assault but also lesser and much commoner forms of intimidation and general creepiness, I think you can see it’s statistically quite reasonable to scrutinize a male stranger fairly carefully before you go on a date with him.

If the subject of the profiling isn’t subject to any harm because of it, because no action was taken, then there’s no problem.

In this example, though, the relevant information is “nervous-looking” and “suspicious-bulky-belt-wearing”. The apparent ethnic background of the person is not relevant.

This is why the NYPD stop and frisk program produced the results that it did, of black and Latino people being more likely to be stopped, and white people who were stopped being more likely to have contraband on them. When it came to white people, the police looked beyond skin color for other factors, such as suspicious behavior. Stopping people on the basis of their skin color produced objectively worse results.

In the same fashion, waving the nervous, suspicious-bulky-belt-wearing white guy through, and hassling the happy, relaxed, Arab couple pushing a baby stroller, produces objectively worse results.

I am an anxious person who does not fly much so I would be nervous at an airport so why should I get more scrutiny? Can you name an anxious people who have committed terrorist acts? Because of our higher anxiety levels we are more less likely to commit crimes than other groups of people. 40 million Americans suffer from anxiety disorders which is alot more than there are Arab Americans, so singling us out is even more counterproductive.

As a man, I’ve never taken it personally when women get wary passing me by and hold their purse a little closer. Yet we do not seem to be totally in agreement that it’s “okay” to profile in your personal life. African-Americans and Muslim men do actually complain about how white women get around them, rolling up their windows, moving to a new seat on the bus, holding their purse closer, etc. All men need to just get over it. Too many of our gender are victimizers. Not most of us, but enough that women have to take prudent steps to protect themselves.

From the victim’s perspective, it’s not about the likelihood of an individual being a rapist or mugger. It’s about the likelihood that if she gaily and carelessly walks by enough men, she’s going to become a victim. It’s almost a certainty. So you protect yourself in every situation as best you can to minimize the chances, and the man being treated with suspicion needs to get over it.

It was my recollection that a nervous demeanor is the sort of thing El Al agents look for as part of their screening system (“The interrogation can be aggressive and personal, and the examiners look for mannerisms and factual discrepancies in deciding whether to inspect the passenger and his or her luggage more intensively”). (That article doesn’t say what mannerisms are being looked for, however).

If there is, in fact, no correlation between nervous behavior and attempting to bomb an airliner, then disregard my suggestion. The point is, in other areas, such as stop and frisk, behavior was a much better indicator than ethnicity, and there’s no reason why this shouldn’t also be true for airport security.

Velocity, you mentioned in your previous posts that you’re Asian-American. Would your OP be different if the DMV suddenly felt the need to scrutinize you more heavily during driving tests because of your racial appearance? (Let’s assume that the DMV rationalized this on some sort of statistical study showing Asian-American drivers to be more likely to be at fault in car accidents). As an Asian-American myself, I would certainly not want to see that scenario played out. There’s a reason racial profiling is unacceptable in a most contexts–it’s tempting to profile because it’s superficially easy. But take that to its logical extremes and you end up with things like the regrettable history of internment camps for Japanese Americans during WWII.

Stealing is hard to prevent, too. We don’t respond to that by saying well, fuck it, stealing is fine.

…and male.

Hang on a mo. You went from men, to specific groups of men, and then back to men again for your conclusion, and likewise with women. Women sometimes fear men, African-American men and Muslim men complain about reactions they get from white women, men should get over it because a subset of men are victimizers. Even if your conclusion is accurate - men should get over women doing little things to avoid trouble - that doesn’t speak to your examples - African-American and Muslim men witnessing more fearful reactions from white women - except in an unhelpful general.

If women are treating African-American or Muslim men more warily than men in general, then as I noted, that doesn’t really make sense, statistically speaking.

Unfortunately, a quite high proportion of men in general behave unpleasantly to women. But there’s not a high proportion of African-American or Muslim men in particular (at least in the US) who behave more unpleasantly to women than men in general do.

**In other words, statistically speaking, gender profiling by women among strangers makes some sense. But racial/ethnic profiling on top of gender profiling in the same situation does not.

Exactly. Which is why it makes sense to profile the category with which the high risk is actually associated (i.e., men), but does not make sense to profile categories that by themselves do not substantially contribute to that risk (e.g., being African-American or Muslim).

Sorry, I mangled the point. When women act that way, it’s unlikely to be because of your race. Women are just wary around men in general, but when you’ve been treated differently your whole life because of your race you might think it’s a racial thing. It’s probably not, at least in the case of women. But even if it was, people have an inherent right to personally profile, as long as it’s in harmless ways. It’s not about you, it’s about her. Her right to be ready for anything trumps your right to be trusted. She doesn’t know you.

Yes. I just had to note that some men do actually take it personally because they feel it’s about their race, rather than their gender.

… or their size, or the way they look at you.

I don’t even notice most of the northern-African-looking guys I cross on a given day other than as “obstacle / avoid running into”, but I do notice that bunch holding up the walls outside the internet cafe, slowly sizing up and down anybody who passes by and not moving for anybody. The bunch of Latin Americans outside another internet cafe glance at people, are shorter than me and move out of the way if necessary. The mixed bunch at yet another cafe (well, sometimes a mixed bunch, sometimes several small bunches) come in multiple colors and sizes but again, glance at people and do move out of the way. The first bunch makes me feel like a banana about to get peeled, the other two don’t.

So your point is that it is okay to single out groups of people for more intense scrutiny if members of that group is indeed more likely to commit whatever act we are trying to prevent?

President Obama once commented about how people would lock car doors if he walked by. (before Obama became a senator.) In his case, probably a race + gender issue.

That’s my point - I find it baffling that “Because X group of people is more likely to do Y, therefore it is more acceptable to Profile X” is considered OK in some situations but not others. It’s inconsistent. Either it’s justified, or it’s not.

But not as much as giving special scrutiny to all people.

Look, let us take your lower 1-10000 as a number, than compare it to the 1-100,000,000 of random Americans that pose any kind of security threat, then the numbers say- the chance a Muslim poses any kind of security threat is 10000 times greater than the population as a whole.
I’d say that a single young male, who appear devoutly Muslin- should be screened.

TSA is a joke.