- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 17, 2001

You have to wonder about the way Attorney General John Ashcroft has chosen to begin his term. Consider how it is that Mr. Ashcroft, maintaining his position that Judge White is unfit for the federal bench, told the House Black Caucus that he would not oppose Judge White's re-nomination. This may shock Mr. Ashcroft's staunch defenders who examined Judge White's judicial and ethical record and found it wanting, just as Mr. Ashcroft had, leading them to now wonder whether "racial sensitivity," or "political outreach" has trumped the facts in the end.

This would seem to be the case with the administration's position on racial profiling. The facts decades of crime statistics and generations of experience show that certain groups dominate certain crimes. Your average cop (no less than the average citizen) keeps these facts in mind if he wants to perform successfully that is, make arrests and live to file the paperwork.

In Denver, for example, the heroin trade is controlled by Mexican nationals. If a patrolman stops more young Hispanic men frequenting known drug markets than elderly black women in their Sunday best, has he committed, as Mr. Ashcroft would say, "an unconstitutional deprivation of equal protection under our Constitution"? Or take New Jersey. There, the crack cocaine trade is dominated by black men, while powdered cocaine is mainly sold by Hispanics. If state troopers stop more blacks and Hispanics than Yeshiva students, have they also committed a moral breach, as President Bush said recently, for having wrongly pointed "the finger of suspicion at groups"?

Of course not. These policemen are facing reality, and quite often with valor. In fighting the war on crime, they have had to learn to recognize certain "profiles," of which race is only an element. In attacking such common sense police work as an insidious pattern of racial bias, both Mr. Bush and Mr. Ashcroft have fallen prey to what John Derbyshire, writing incisively on the subject in National Review, recently called "that large, broad-fronted assault on common sense," an assault now revealed to have penetrated the Republican Party.

In the statistical imbalances on crime that confront society Mr. Bush and Mr. Ashcroft see a problem with the statistics, not the imbalances. But just listen to what Los Angeles Police Chief Bernard Parks, who is black, once told the New York Times: "It's not the fault of the police when they stop minority males or put them in jail. It's the fault of the minority males for committing the crime."

Mr. Bush and Mr. Ashcroft have assigned a grave moral failing unfairness to the fact of disproportionate minority criminality and the numbers that reflect it. By promising to ban racial profiling, they have promised to correct that supposed unfairness by engineering a change in the numbers. This, of course, will have no positive effect on the criminality. For the first time in Republican circles, the fight against profiling "as bad a problem as you can get," Mr. Ashcroft calls it seems to count more than the war on crime. Mr. Ashcroft, in fact, calls the practice a "tragedy." But if being stopped and even rudely hassled without cause always a nuisance and sometimes a humiliation is a "tragedy," then what words do we use to describe the countless lives that have been crippled and lost to crime?


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