Walter E. Williams
Standing in long lines to pass through airport security, I thought: Where's racial and sexual profiling now when it can benefit most, if not all, passengers? You say: "What's wrong with you, Williams? Everybody knows that profiling has been declared racist and sex profiling is no better?" Let's look at profiling as a principle. Suppose you were chief of police seeking to apprehend some unknown gangsters involved in a recent drive-by shooting. Would you instruct your officers to include 80-year-old women as possible suspects to be detained and questioned? You probably wouldn't and why? It's not because you have affection or special respect for the civil rights of older women. Focusing police resources on 80-year-old women, and for that matter 80-year-old-men, as suspects would be stupid and a gross waste of resources, because the chances that 80-year-olds would be involved in drive-by shootings is close to nil. Criminals involved in the drive-by shooting would benefit if there were to be an anti-profiling law forcing police to view 80-year-olds just as likely to be involved in drive-by shootings as any other age group in the population. Doing so would waste police resources and give criminals greater opportunities to escape detection and apprehension. Similar reasoning can be applied to airport security measures. Right now, part of enhanced security includes forcing all passengers to wait in long lines to have their tickets and ID checked, take off outer garments, be frisked and have their carry-on items searched for anything that might be used as a weapon -- that includes fingernail files and clippers, cuticle cutters, knitting needles ... you name it. Lines and passenger inconvenience could be reduced by applying profiling where less scrutiny is given to older women and men. While older women and men are not likely to be hijackers, they might be used by hijackers to carry weapons -- thus, a reasonable case can be made for requiring them, as well as any other passengers, to pass through metal detectors. Who should receive more scrutiny, and who should receive less? This is an important question if we are to insure against hijacking. As a generality, women should receive less scrutiny. After all women have never been significant players in hijacking. Black Americans of either sex should receive less scrutiny for the same reason. Most security resources should be spent scrutinizing Caucasian males, particularly those with a Middle Eastern appearance. And why? It's simply that virtually all hijackings in the United States and elsewhere have been committed by men fitting that general description. Some might say that it's unjust to single out some Americans for more security scrutiny than others. But it is also unjust, plus a waste of resources, to subject people to airport security harassment who pose absolutely no hijacking threat, such as old men, women of any age and young children. There are security measures we can take that are far more effective than anything that we're doing now. There are tens of thousands of retired policemen and active duty policemen, as well as their counterparts in the FBI and Secret Service who fly. How about a program that allows them to fly half-fare if they carry their weapons and act as sky marshals? That would create considerable uncertainty for hijackers. They wouldn't know who or how many people were on the plane who would be in the position to blow their brains out. Current government regulations give aid and comfort to hijackers. The Federal Aviation Administration has guaranteed hijackers that no one on the plane is armed but them. That must be changed.

Walter E. Williams

Dr. Williams serves on the faculty of George Mason University as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and is the author of 'Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination?' and 'Up from the Projects: An Autobiography.'
 
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