Walter E. Williams

 A Washington, D.C., taxicab commissioner, who is black, issued a safety advisory urging D.C.'s 6,800 cabbies to refuse to pick up ?dangerous looking? passengers. She described ?dangerous looking? as a ?young black guy ... with shirttail hanging down longer than his coat, baggy pants, unlaced tennis shoes.? By no stretch of imagination does every young black person pose a threat to taxi drivers, but in Washington, D.C., and other cities, there's a strong correlation between race and the threat of robbery/murder.

 We seriously misunderstand the motives of a taxi driver who passes up a black customer if we use racism as the sole explanation for his behavior. It might be racism, but it might just as easily and more probably be a fear of robbery, murder or being taken to a dangerous neighborhood. There are other examples and greater detail of this phenomenon in my recent Cornell Law and Public Policy Journal article ?Discrimination: The Law vs. Morality.?

 Needless to say, the law-abiding black person who's refused a taxi ride or pizza delivery or pulled over by the police is justifiably annoyed and offended. The rightful recipients of his anger should be those blacks who have made black synonymous with high crime and not the taxi driver or pizza deliverer who might fear for his life or the policeman trying to do his job.

 God would never do profiling of any sort because God is omniscient. We humans lack that quality and must depend upon sometimes crude substitutes for finding out things.

 By the way, attempting to explain profiling doesn't require one to take a position for or against it any more than attempting to explain gravity requires one to be for or against gravity.

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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