Ineffective Racial Profiling – No

Racial Profiling belongs on the trash heap of bad policy along with the Nazi racial theory it resembles.  Despite its ineffectiveness and cost, there are bureaucratic advantages: it requires a great deal of time and effort which allows TSA to claim that it is doing something.  

Racial profiling is ineffective as a screening tool, having never led to the capture of a terrorist. There is a reason for this:  it cannot differentiate saint from sinner. For example, it would treat Billy Graham exactly the same as Tim McVeigh, who bombed the Federal Courthouse in Oklahoma City since they belong to the same racial group.  Colin Powell would receive the same scrutiny as Idi Amin, the cannibal who ruled Uganda for many years.  Is this a valid methodology?

It does even worse when confronted with members of different races. Extending the example, Colin Powell would be stopped and forced to explain his business in Oklahoma City while Tim McVeigh passes by on his merry way to bomb the Murrah Federal Courthouse.

Even the TSA appears to regard racial profiling as useless: if they thought it valid, they would not need to inspect every traveler.  Checking everyone seems to be the priority; since that is the case, all other methods become unnecessary.  Racial profiling is irrelevant anyway: all terrorist captures have been based on observed behavior, not an alleged racial characteristic.

It ignores the opportunity to identify the terrorists, who make up a tiny portion of the traveling public, while repeatedly scrutinizing the overwhelming majority of innocent individuals. For example, I was not a terrorist the last time I traveled; I will not be the next time, the next time or the times after that.  Why can’t TSA figure this out?  Why does TSA have to screen my 80 year-old mother?  Her hands are occupied holding her cane, and the sharpest thing she uses is a pair of small scissors.  It’s like searching for key under the lamppost, because the light is better, even though the keys were dropped in the bushes.

Proper screening methods have been around for years. Methods such as behavioral profiling[i] are effective because most relevant behaviors are independent of race, ethnicity, creed or gender. Proper training on behavioral observation can enable security personnel to distinguish between normal and guilty behavior, whatever the passenger’s racial profile.  Using behavioral tools would also eliminate the need to inspect all travelers because most of us are not terrorists, and therefore have no reason to be nervous then passing through checkpoints.

Security screening is so vitally important that it should be done properly, rather than wasting resources with irrelevant, racist and unsound methods. We pride ourselves on being a race-neutral, intelligent society. It is time to act like one.