If more people had a grasp of the subtleties of the English language, we might go far toward eliminating some of the misunderstanding which exists between us. But unfortunately, too many of our citizens communicate with a highly limited vocabulary and a poor understanding of the meaning of the words they employ in their speech.
Much of the conversation circling around the question of the profiling of people whom the police believe are likely candidates to commit crimes has taken place because people don’t understand the difference between two important words – assumptions and conclusions. Unfortunately, President Obama in speaking on the subject today might have reinforced this confusion.
Simply put, an assumption is a belief or feeling to which a person holds without having the evidence either to support or reject an opinion. Some assumptions are undoubtedly based on prejudice – whether it is racial, or not trying a specific food because of the way it looks – if it looks funny it probably tastes bad – that sort of thing.
By making the statement that, “Trayvon Martin might have been he,” the President played to his audience and suggested that those who make assumptions merely based on physical characteristics are dangerous elements in our society. I believe that he referred, as he has in the past, to law enforcement – and now, of course, to private citizens who might have reacted in the same way that George Zimmerman did.
We’ll get back to the President’s statement later in this post.
Let’s turn our attention to the word conclusion. A conclusion is an opinion that a person may hold after she or he has looked at data, evaluated the evidence and now has a basis for making a determination. It is only fair to say that two people viewing the same statistics might reach different conclusions. But, at the least, there is some objective information on which they relied to form their opinion.
An example of “profiling” that we not only permit but endorse is practiced regularly by TSA. It tends to single out people who appear to be of Middle Eastern origin – and there is reason for this. It was people of that ethnic background who we claim were the responsible parties for the events of 9/11. Based on our experience, they are the most likely people to commit further acts of terrorism. The sad events at the Boston Marathon support that view. Is there anyone who fails to see the logic of this or believes that the conclusion to engage in this practice is faulty in its logic or that it is inappropriate?
I recently read some interesting statistics which came from the NYPD. The city has seen a tremendous reduction in crime since it began profiling individuals and initiating “stop and frisk” measures. It should be said that more than 90% of those stopped are either black or Latino. NY Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly makes no bones about his department’s targets for this policy, despite the fact that the Department is being sued over “racial profiling.”
There is a reason that the Department selected this particular demographic to make New York a safer place. The fact is that, according to the department’s records, 96% of the murder victims in the city are either black or Latino and 97% of the suspects in custody for these murders are either black or Latino.
Those who assume that there is only a racial motivation in these pat downs would probably be right. But if you look at the statistics, as have the NYPD, do you think it would be productive to pat down 90 year old Mrs. O’Reilly as she returns home from daily Mass?
Much has been written (and this is an excellent example of the faulty logic and the assumptions made by many) about the fact that a disproportionate number of blacks are in jail than their percentage in the general population. Of course, the assumptive reasoning is that we have an unequal justice system that oppresses our minority black citizens. What a load of rot.
There are proportionately more blacks in jail because there are proportionately more blacks who commit the crimes that send them there. And those statistics hold for NY, Chicago, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Cleveland, Detroit and a host of other cities that will most likely be scenes of rallies for “justice” for Trayvon Martin on Saturday, July 20, 2013.
That young man’s death was tragic – but perhaps it was inevitable that he might have come to this kind of violent end. And when you, Mr. President say, “It might have been you,” I believe you are correct. I have seen the commission of crime in the district that first elected you to office and the demographics are not far different than those in New York.
I have been a victim and I have known other victims in that district. And the perpetrators were young black men – with or without hoodies – high on drugs or merely out for a good time. Most of those who are violated by these thugs are black men and women – the overwhelming majority of whom are your constituents.
The fear of young black men is real. It is real among anyone who has been a victim, anyone who knows a victim and among anyone who has done a little research. This fear shatters all boundaries of race and color and is held as much by blacks as whites – perhaps even more by the former group. Would you call our elderly black citizens who are fearful of young black males racists – or realists?
If you want to leave a positive legacy for the country, please stop relying on faulty assumptions and take a look at the facts. If you do that, you will inevitably come to the conclusion that the cancers of illegitimacy and dependence and illiteracy and unemployment are at the core of the black community’s problems. And if you do that, you will turn from flowery oration to initiating positive action.
It’s long overdue.