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While Profiling may not be politically Correct nowdays, its concept is totally valid. Not to profile in certain instances, would defy common sense and logic.


"the symmetry is incomplete. The reason is simply that most beneficiaries of affirmative action are happy to have the benefits!"

This seems to be a variation of the "positive discrimination" meme, and I'm sorry to see you employ it. Are whites and Asians "happy" to be discriminated against?

If a white businessman hires another white person over a more qualified Hispanic, not because he hates non-whites, but simply because he really, really likes white people, is that "positive discrimination?" Does the fact that the white guy is really happy make a bit of difference in the morality of this scenario?


It most certainly would be healthy if Americans were less conscious of their differences. However, when an American has been made conscious of those differences via negative bias or profiling, the ideal of the melting pot is not a fair compensation. Victims of bias and profiling ARE importantly different from the rest of society in that they are victims of bias and profiling.

An analogy could be drawn to say, intentional torts. We may well say that it would be healthy if people didn't strike each other so much, but that goal is not advanced by denying remedies to one who has been struck. In fact we want to affirmatively compensate the injured person, and we routinely talk about the deterance effect or safety payoff of doing so.

Similarily, affirmative preferences in response to identifiable biases (be they historically or socio-economically derived) both serve to partially remedy the ill effects and give the rest of society an interest in ending the bias.

The connection between profiling and entrenched bias occurs when the characteristic being profiled results proximately from historical or current bias. It is difficult for people to conceptualize this because they refuse to ponder just why a 15 year old Palestinian child may choose to hurl rocks at an Israeli/US tank. What social and economic and political forces marginalized that child until he was available for violence? Why isn't he going to school like the Israeli children on the other side of the fence? It is not necessary to assign blame, it is necessary to stop repeating slogans to ourselves like "they hate our freedoms." In actual fact they WANT our freedoms, and have taken to the streets for them. We may abhor many of their methods, but that does not relieve us from the responsibility of understanding the root causes of their anger. We can no more stop terrorism by busting up cells than we can stop the drug trade by intercepting Cessnas. Suicide bombers are a symptom, not the disease itself.

Intelligent people understand that the Muslim religion is no more inherantly predisposed to extremist violence than the Christian tradition (perhaps even less.) That Arabs are not genetically more likely to be terrorists than the Jamacians. This should be good news because it means that if there are statistics that would seem to justify profiling, then must be the result of a correctable condition. Like say, diplomatic support for oppressive regimes (Saudi Arabia) or global economic protectionism.


The article mentions a desire for Americans to think of themselves as "just Americans", a concept which is laudable and long overdue. Later, ostensibly through intrenched habit, you refer to Arab-Americans. Not to pick nits, but I think the recent rise in the popularity of using "-American" can only contribute to the opposite phenomenon. To be a legitimate -American, I suppose you should carry a second passport. -A Ukranian-Dutch-German-Irish- whatever. American.

Daniel Chapman

Judge Posner, I hope you will consider doing a post on Affirmitive Action in the near future. That seems to be an area of interest on this page, and I would like to hear your direct thoughts on the subject as opposed to a side-effect of a racial profiling post.

I think there is an important difference between giving preferences based on "favored minority" status and preferences based on financial status. I would not object to a preference given to students who come from poorer families. Educational opportunities help to raise the lower income brackets and close the income gap. Unfortunately, affirmitive action often gives the benefit to anyone who fits the racial profile, resulting in affluent minorities who have no "disadvantage" getting a leg up.

Before I get jumped on, no... I'm not saying that ALL people who benefit from AA are rich, and I'm sure many universities also give consideration to financial background. I just think it's awkward that SOME affluent students are rewarded by AA.

I also think there's a problem with comparing familial wealth with race. The belief that a person should be rewarded for hard work and entrepreneurship is deeply rooted in American liberalism. Parents should be rewarded for creating a better life for their children.


In the 1940s, the government was so afraid that there were "sleeper cells" of disloyal Japanese-Americans that it rounded up Americans of Japanese dissent and placed them in internment camps. The public, and the Supreme Court, stood idly by and allowed this to happen. While the United States had been brutally attacked by Japan, most scholars today view the WW2 internment camps as an overraction to the perceived threat and as a black mark on our nation's history.

Yes, on 9/11/01, we were attacked by a group of vicious terrorists who hailed from the middle east. The damage done was on par with Pearl Harbor, and it has lauched a global war, though of a different kind. But that does not justify an overreaction here at home. "Profiling" can be made to sound justified in theory, when viewed in light of 9/11. But I wonder whether its basis lies more in fear than in fact. Security in public places should be comprehensive, in light of the potential threat. But we should not overreact and allow fear to overcome our commitment to equal rights.


Our Islamic enemies in fact do hate our freedoms, and have no trouble announcing this, as when they openly speak out against Democracy (as they most recently have regarding the elections in Iraq) and, among many other things, deny women basic rights, punish homosexuality, kill blasphemers, etc. Only someone blindly committed to apologizing for them and blaming the West can miss this.


"but the intense hatred we see right now has its roots in the toxic ideologies of the modern Arab world"

Thanks for the specialized historical analysis. Sounds like you will sell lots of books.

"Our Islamic enemies..."

What, all of them? So you admit that you view this as a religious war?

This just proves my point, no one will even consider what is driving otherwise ordinary people to side with violent extremists (which by the way exist in every society including America.)
Instead we hear that "the Arab world" is toxic and I am an apologist. Three cheers for rational discourse.

"O people! We have formed you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another"
Koran (49:13)

Kirk H. Sowell

Briefly on the response to my comments: Corey objects to my reference to the "toxic ideologies of the modern Arab world," but this is essential history. Nazism became influential in the 1930s and 1940s, and Soviet Marxism after that. It was the Soviet bloc which sponsored terrorism through much of the Arab world during the Cold War, and these toxic ideologies of Western origin were combined with certain Islamist movements (e.g. Saudi Wahhabism, etc.) to make a hybrid we may call Islamism (i.e. Islam + Marxism). This is precisely why we face young men prepared to die in order to defeat us. It is not a distraction, but an essential element to understanding the enemy. Profiling, with its merits and demerits, is simply one option in dealing with this reality.

Corey's point about there being extremists in every society is true but inadequate. When Catholics in Ireland kill Protestants, Baptists in Texas don't burn down the local Catholic church. When Al-Qaeda attacked American embassies in 1998, this won them wide support. Osama bin Laden is a perverter of Islam, but not a marginalized extremist, and thus profiling is considered.

I agree with Corey to the extent that another commentator's reference to "Islamic enemies" was imprecise - "Islamist enemies" would be better. While some of our enemies are secularists, the most ardent are Islamists, Muslims pushing a perverted form of Islam.

Todd Baker

You conflate two things which are categorically different and not wholly helpful in the fight against crime. Racial profiling is helpful in certain in certain circumstances, but becomes an unfair practice in others. Affirmative action benefits those who receive, like Bill O'Reilly whose father received a GI bill, white women, asian americans, those whose parents already teach at prestigious institutions and automatically gain acceptance for that reason alone, those whose parents happen to be president and were mediocre C students in school and just happen to reach the presidency. What about legacy points? Will you address that as well, or does your analysis simply boil down to the false equation that affirmative action=african american. Are you against asians and women receiving awards and research stipends simply because they are asian or women? Let's be consistent!



I had no idea that the Cold War/Terror War metaphor had been carried so far. It is not enough to replace "communist" with "terrorist" in the political rhetoric, we actually have to cite Marxist influence as the driving force behind Bin Laden's extremism? I suppose that saves us from having to re-write the speeches so much. Can't wait to hear about the Evil Empire of Islamo-Marxism some more.

You left out the part where the US-bloc supported the Shah and then Saddam throughout the Cold War and their bloodthirsty tyranny was combined with toxic western ideologies of conquest and capital to create decades of oppressive facism. Or the part where we invited the Taliban to Texas to discuss oil pipeline deals at the height of their oppression of the Afghan people.

Well, at least the Cold War propaganda was on hiatus during the 90s and we got a bit of a vacation.

I dispute your thesis. Whatever socialist ideology is evident in extremist or revolutionary political movements (be they "freedom fighters" or "terrorists") does not derive from the global superpower that happens to be arming them for selfish purposes at the time. Instead, these ideologies derive from the demographics of the movement itself, and influence which side the particular superpower decides to arm. I think you mistake effect for cause.

Kirk H. Sowell

Very brief response to Corey: I did leave a lot out, because of space limitations that is necessary here. I do not believe in any Cold War/War on Terror metaphor, the two are far more different than alike, and most Islamists are not socialists. You misunderstand where I am coming from here; the US Cold War strategy would not fit now. What Islamists have done is that they have taken certain elements of Nazi and Soviet ideology - anti-Semitism, terrorism, the glorification of state control - and mixed it with certain Islamic doctrines to produce something new. Few Arabs today are Marxists, but Soviet/Marxist ideas permeated the culture for decades and this has produced a mess that we cannot solve by simply not taking measures to defend ourselves, like profiling.


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