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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Can prejudices ever be anything but bad?

Jackie Mason is famous for one of his trademark stand-up routines which, if not actually racist (debatable), certainly is close enough to racism to make people look around carefully at who is sitting nearby before laughing too loud. 

In this routine he justifies being wary of encountering certain minorities on the street at night with the back-handed statement, "Nobody ever crossed the street to avoid a group of Jewish accountants".

I mention this joke because I experienced something during my last business trip to India that left me with a similar 'vibe'.

I was waiting in the line for the security check at the Chennai (Madras) airport before an internal flight to Mumbai (Bombay).  Posted on the wall a few yards before the X-ray machines and metal-detectors was a fairly typical poster listing all manner of objects and substances that were prohibited beyond that point. 

Most of the items on the poster were pretty much what you would expect; guns, explosives, spray cans, knives, etc. ... and a few, like the prohibition of carrying a Cricket bat onto the plane, were uniquely Indian.

But near the bottom of the poster was a small statement that advised members of the Sikh faith to inform security personnel if they intended to board a flight carrying a 'Kirpan'.  I had never read or heard the word 'Kirpan' before, but this wasn't particularly surprising as I had never had a reason to look too closely at the Sikh religion or culture. 

But since a Kirpan was mentioned on the security poster of potentially dangerous stuff, I decided to spend my wait-on-line time trying to reason out for myself what it might be using only what I did know about Sikhs.

I looked around the airport for a Sikh (there were plenty to choose from) on which to focus my staggering powers of deduction, and quickly settled on a tall, be-turbaned gentleman a few people behind me in the slow-moving line.  To my foreign eyes he looked remarkably like all the Sikhs I used to see driving cabs around New York city (how's that for a knee-jerk prejudice?). 

Turban?  Check.  Beard?  Check.  Loose-fitting clothing?  Check.

I knew from having suffered through watched 'The English Patient' with Zahava that underneath those turbans was almost certainly a whole lot of uncut hair. 

Now we were getting somewhere! 

As I snuck surreptitious peeks at my Sikh neighbor in line I began to reason that something must be holding all that hair in place under there... perhaps a big hair pin of some sort???! 

As I passed through the security check point I was silently congratulating myself on having figured out the mystery of the Kirpan so quickly.  It had to be a hair pin!

Once inside the gate, though, I started wondering if that was really it.  I looked around and saw that several of my fellow travelers were availing themselves of the WiFi in the waiting area so I took out my laptop and googled 'Sikh' and 'Kirpan' to see if I could shed any light on the subject.

The following Wikipedia entry jumped out at me:

Five Ks

The Five Ks, or panj kakaar/kakke, are five items of faith that some Sikhs wear at all times at the command of the tenth Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh who so ordered at the Baisakhi Amrit Sanchar in 1699. They are Kesh (uncut hair), Kanga (wooden comb), Kaccha (specially-designed underwear), Kara (iron bracelet) and Kirpan (strapped sword). The five Ks are mainly for identity and representation of the ideals of Sikhism, such as honesty, equality, and the concept of a "warrior saint or saintly soldier", meditating on God and protecting the downtrodden.

Holy cow... A sword?!!

I had actually been correct in assuming that there was something holding all that hair together under the turban (the wooden comb or Kanga... not the Kirpan), but somewhere on the person of the traditional Sikh passenger with whom I would be sharing an airplane was a small ceremonial sword. 

Strangely, the idea of this tall, bearded Sikh having a hidden sword on the flight really didn't bother me... and this is where we come back to Jackie Mason's Jewish accountant joke.  You see, other than some sheltered suburban idiots who, through the fog of their post-9/11 hysteria, couldn't differentiate between the appearance of a Sikh and an Afghanistan Taliban, it would be an odd thing to see someone actually cross the street to avoid a bunch be-turbaned Punjabi Sikhs.

Further googling reinforced this when most of what I could find about Sikhs spoke of a people almost universally known for honesty, bravery, loyalty and obedience to a completely inoffensive faith.  In fact, one entry I found that was meant to illustrate the latter attribute was a story from the Indian period of the British Raj (likely apocryphal) about a Sikh soldier in the British Army who allegedly starved to death because nobody came to relieve him on watch and he refused to abandon his post to forage for food.

It isn't exactly surprising, then, that a Sikh character (Punjab) was selected by the creators of 'Little Orphan Annie' as Daddy Warbuck's faithful bodyguard and fearless protector of the title character.

But getting back to the airport and the hidden Kirpan/sword, I started thinking about the thinly veiled prejudice that allows Sikhs to travel within India (one would assume) with a large knife, and others not.  A few more google searches turned up news stories about Sikhs who had bumped up against airline security regulations in the post-9/11 world in various places in the world.  In most cases the issue of the Kirpan was handled quite amicably with the offending weapon being slipped into the checked baggage or handed over to the cabin crew for the duration of the flight.

But that really wasn't the point for me.  The heart of the issue was that I really had no personal problem with a Sikh boarding my plane with a sword... but I would refuse to fly with a similarly armed Muslim. 

Can you imagine what the world of travel would look like today if, like Guru Gobind Singh, Mohammed had commanded his followers to always carry around a sword (rather than simply instructing them to spread Islam via that particular weapon)?  I imagine in that scenario that even the most strident civil libertarians might give the nod to curtailing a few religious freedoms in the name of arriving at one's destination in one piece.

I'll be the first to admit that many prejudices are not only baseless and wrong, but that they tend to throw up impregnable barriers to understanding and coexistence.  But just as at the heart of many jokes there is a kernel of truth... so too, at the heart of some prejudices there can be found a legitimate shred of common sense. 

Call me a bigot, but I choose to recognize as an acceptable prejudice that not everyone should be allowed to carry a sword (ceremonial or otherwise) onto an airplane.  Oh yeah... and for the record, I wouldn't cross the street (or skip a flight) to avoid a Sikh.

Take from that what you will.


Posted by David Bogner on May 29, 2007 | Permalink


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Singh explains explains it further. :-)

Posted by: Rami | May 29, 2007 4:00:04 PM

Great post, Dave. Very informational and a good read, as well.

Posted by: val | May 29, 2007 6:02:23 PM

Personally I have always been slightly nervous about the followers of Teddy Roosevelt. That stick they carry looks awfully dangerous. ;)

It is a good post with good points in it. When we look at the history of actions of various groups it is hard not to react in certain ways.

Posted by: Jack | May 29, 2007 6:12:35 PM

Hi David,

I used to live in a place in California, USA called Yuba City...

Which was largely settled by Sikhs... love 'em! Good folks!

I used to work out with a Sikh guy and his son at the gym... his name was Bupi, which was short for Bupinder.

I trust them with swords too.

I've also noticed that a huge number of Sikhs seem to identify with Judaism and the State of Israel strongly.

Again, good folks... menschen if I do say so. And I'd gladly make that generalization! Omayn!


Posted by: Maksim-Smelchak | May 29, 2007 6:48:59 PM

As I understand their faith, Sikhs are bound to defend the weak. I feel safer with an armed Sikh aboard my plane.

Posted by: antares | May 29, 2007 7:23:02 PM

I never knew any of this.

Tho I still quiver with fear when I see those Jewish accountants in large groups.
oooo scary...

Posted by: weese | May 29, 2007 8:17:04 PM

Sikh and you shall findh. ((groaaaan))

Posted by: Elisson | May 29, 2007 9:47:14 PM

I believe most people wouldn't mind sitting on a plane next to a Skh wearing a kirpan but there you go. Common sense seems to be out-of-fashion.

Posted by: Ilana-Davita | May 29, 2007 11:58:47 PM


Sikh neighbors down the block here in the heavily Orthodox Pico-Robertson area of Los Angeles. Fine people, great neighbors, who often say "Good Shabbos" to yours truly. Awesome white outfits with that great accessory: the often jeweled and lovely kirpan. Gotta get me one.

Posted by: Robert J. Avrech | May 30, 2007 12:07:31 AM

A Sikh of my acquaintance was on the streets of Delhi after Indira Gandhi was assasinated, fighting Hindu mobs alongside other Sikhs. Outnumbered, of course, but as the Sikh expression has it, 'panch-main parmeswar' (where there are five, there is G-d). Fearless. A former airforce pilot. Other than having since then gotten five phd's in scientific fields, he's the most well-adjusted person I know.

I've worked with many Indians over the years. Sikhs and Gharwalis are absolutely top-notch. Splendid fellows.

Posted by: Back of the Hill | May 30, 2007 4:03:49 AM

I wouldn't mind travelling with an armed Sikh, either, but perhaps our general feelings about travelling with a Sikh wearing a kirpan, versus a Muslim wearing a sword, has more to do with knowing individuals who are one or the other.
I certainly know Muslims with whom I would have no trouble boarding a plane, knife or no knife, and I don't know enough Sikhs well to have a bad opinion on any particular one (or more than one). Back in college I knew quite a few Sikhs, and was pretty good friends with one, so all my knowledge of Sikhs is positive. I also know plenty of Muslims (more than Sikhs, in fact), but my feelings may be counteracted by the never-ending news stories about Muslims as a group, rather than as individuals.

Finally, I'll tell a little story of my own, which is slightly related. When I was in college, I took a summer or so off to travel around Europe. One night in Italy, I met up with a fellow traveller and we fell into conversation. Somehow we got onto the topic of race, and he tried to prove his rather racist point about people having good reason to be afraid of African Americans by making a comment similar to that of Mason - telling me that if I were alone on a dark street at night and a group of Afrian American men came towards me, wouldn't I cross the street?
As it happens, I worked in Anacostia as a volunteer for a community goup at the time - for those who don't know Anacostia in Washington, D.C., it, and a certain section of it called Barry Farms is one of the poorest places in the US, and one of the most violent, as well. In fact, groups of black men came up to me all the time, often after dark, in the winter when the sun goes down pretty early, and nothing worse had ever happened to me than a young guy yelling, "Hey white girl!" at me.
My response to my Italian friend, though, was the one which is a truer one than most people are going to hear - or at least most men; if any group of men comes up to me on the street at night while I'm alone, I'm going to feel highly nervous - even a group of Jewish accountants. And in fact, statistically, I'm more likely to suffer bodily harm from white men than I am from African Americans. But just get someone to try and believe that statistic....
So what's a body to do? Well, I guess acknowledge when we feel nervous and move on. *shrug*

Posted by: Kol Ra'ash Gadol | May 30, 2007 6:32:55 AM

Try making a traffic stop on a Sikh truck driver. The guy climbs down from the cab....beard, turban...."Yep, he's armed."

Never had a problem with them, though. Always polite.

When dealing with nations or peoples as a whole, such as Iran or the Palestinians, they have to be treated as one out of necessity. But when face to face with another person, one must deal with them as an individual, for each person is responsible for their own actions. It ain't easy, but it can be done.

Posted by: K Newman | May 30, 2007 7:06:02 AM

Recently while in the US when being treated by a (very handsome) Sikh Dr, I unwittingly amused him greatly as he was checking my I.V. by exclaiming "Ooh, nice Kara!" (I was very drugged up and quite proud I'd remembered which K it was- hadn't give it any serious thought since the class trip to the Gurdwara in 1988)

I'm a big fan of the religion, not just because of how gloriously funky (in the British sense) their temples are, but mostly because they outright rejected the Caste system. Even in England in the 90s, my Hindu friends at (high)school weren't allowed to be in relationships with men they loved if those men happened to be "below" them, or if the men were "wrong caste"- unlike the Sikh girls...

Posted by: PP | May 30, 2007 8:38:22 AM

Ah, but you've just opened the can of worms known as "racism vs. racial profiling." In case the latter term hasn't yet made it to your side of the Mediterranean, let me explain al regel achat, as it were:

"Racism" = "You are of a certain ethnicity, therefore you are evil."

"Racial profiling" = "You are of a certain ethnicity. Many people of your ethnicity have been associated with words and/or acts that are harmful to society. Therefore you will be watched carefully."

Before 9/11/01, the difference between the two would have probably been considered mere semantics. Now, however, there's a world of difference. To use your example: A racist would say, "All Sikhs are good, and all Muslims are evil." Not very constructive, or true. A racial profiler (or someone in airport security, which amounts to the same thing these days) would say, "Sikhs are known to believe in nobility and gentility as part of their religion. The amount of people stabbed by their ceremonial swords are statistically irrelevant. Therefore they may take their swords aboard. A statistically relevant percentage of Muslims, however, believe in jihad. Therefore, the fellow with the Saudi passport wearing an "Osama Lives" T-shirt may not bring his ceremonial hand-grenade aboard."

Any questions?

Posted by: psachya | May 30, 2007 11:41:08 AM

In 1984, Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards. Five months previously, Gandhi had ordered the Indian army to attack the Sikh Golden Temple in Amritsar (Punjab), in response to the actions of violent Sikh separatists.

This, however, does not mean that a Sikh individual is more predisposed to violence than any other individual who comes from a different ethnic / religious / cultural / national background.

African Americans compose about 12 percent of the population in the United States, but 42 percent of incarcerated men in American jails are African American. Some would conclude from these numbers that black men are more inclined to violence or criminal activity than non-Blacks. However, studies show that police officers, judges and juries are more likely to arrest and convict black males than white because of their own prejudices against blacks.

My answer to the question you pose in the title of this post is no. Prejudices can never be anything but bad.

Posted by: Lisa | May 30, 2007 12:00:57 PM


"However, studies show that police officers, judges and juries are more likely to arrest and convict black males than white because of their own prejudices against blacks."

And what studies would those be? That's a serious accusation, so let's see your sources.

Posted by: K Newman | May 30, 2007 3:08:21 PM

Rami... Thanks for the link.

Val... Mission accomplished. I figure if I learned something, why shouldn't everyone else? :-)

Jack... Yes, a very important point. Individual /aberrant behavior are not worthy of prejudice but trends should certainly be taken into consideration (IMHO).

Maksim-Smelchak... I hadn't heard that bit about the Sikh affinity for Jews/Judaism. However on site that linked to this post I learned that Jews once wore turbans similar to those worn by Sikhs.

antares... that would make you, uh weak? :-).

weese... Yeah, like the Jets and the Sharks... but with overbearing mothers. :-)

Elisson... Oy, do I hear the scribble of the first chapter in your next paperback? :-)

Ilana-Davita... Waaaay out of fashion.

Robert J. Avrech... I have never really had interactions with the Sikhs on a personal or community level, but the more I read the more I find experiences similar to yours.

Those were dark days in India. I don't know that I wouldn't have been a potential assassin had my people been subjected to the kind of treatment they Sikhs received under Gandhi (Indira, that is).

Kol Ra'ash Gadol... If your point is that generalizations are often unfair to individuals, then I agree with you. However I still think that proven trends should be taken into account when making decisions... especially those to do with safety.

K Newman... I agree that as a cop you have to treat each traffic stop as a completely individual occurrence But on a purely self-preservation level, I think you could be forgiven for making certain mental adjustments based on proven trends.

PP... True, in my reading I am liking their egalitarian outlook very much.

psachya... No, I am actually referring quite directly to racial profiling. In cases with strong statistical backing to support it, I am very much in favor of the practice. If this means that as an Israeli I get lumped in with others from the middle east for extra scrutiny at the airport... I'm perfectly OK with that.

Lisa... Oh my, your comment is wrong on so many levels I hardly know where to begin. Let's start with the opening salvo about Indira Gandhi having been assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards. Either you know nothing about Indian history leading up to that event or your mention of this isolated anomaly is deliberately misleading. Given the events immediately preceeding her assasisnation, I can say that I have a hard time criticising the act. For those who might not have the time to read up on the topic, Indira Gandhi was a tyrant/dictator of the first order (her breeding, education and gender not withstanding). Before she was killed, she had a couple of decades of locking up opposition politicians, having demonstrators and activists tortured and killed and quashing every aspect of human rights, under her belt. She ordered the systematic displacement and even murder of untold thousands of her own people and even implemented forced castration on the poor in an attempt to keep the lower castes from having large families. The events leading up to her death were as follows: She had a Sikh religious leader named Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale arrested and detained for almost a month on trumped up charges. He was eventually released for lack of evidence and took refuge from further political persecution within the Golden Temple, Sikh's holiest shrine. Gandhi then ordered the temple stormed by the army and Bhindranwale and his followers to be arrested at any cost. Hundreds of Sikh pilgrims who were at the shrine were slaughtered by Gandhi's troops, sparking widespread anger (justified IMHO) among this often minority religion. As a direct result of this massacre, two of Ghandi's (many) Sikh bodyguards shot her. It is worth noting that they were in turn shot by other bodyguards... most of whom were also Sikhs). Lisa, the fact that you would mention arguably the most isolated case of Sikh's acting violently to make your case is, in itself, a kind of prejudice... albeit a completely unsupportable kind. I never said ALL Sikhs were incapable of violence. I simply said that the weight of overwhelming statistical evidence that Sikhs have a miniscule record of violent behavior was a good enough reason to assume they could be trusted with a sword on-board a commercial flight. And conversely, that Muslims have no such statistical evidence to support allowing them the same leeway. That is a prejudice against Muslims, and in favor of Sikhs, that I feel is perfectly justified. The kind of prejudice I described in my post is quite clearly referring to acknowledging strong trends that are supported by overwhelming statistical evidence. While you pretend to denounce all prejudices, you practice what is, IMHO, the most insidious form; prejudice based on the exception rather than the rule. It is not unlike the scores of times during the disengagement that you used your blog to showcase individual bad behavior by settlers (including < ~gasp~ > them not talking politely to you), while remaining silent about the fact that the overwhelming majority of anti-disengagement folks were anti-violence and denounced bad actors quite vocally. I thought I had become accustomed to your particular brand of prejudice, but apparently I was wrong. It gets me just as angry today as it always has. If you honestly believe that no group of people on the planet has shown a much more pronounced predisposition towards violence than another (and that it is not OK to make certain assumptions based on a groups good or bad record)... you are either willfully ignoring the evidence... or you have very poor powers of observation.

K Newman... Don't hold your breath.

Posted by: treppenwitz | May 30, 2007 5:56:01 PM

Just one more prophylactic thought to anyone who might be entertaining a defence of treating everyone absolutely equally (meaning no profiling whatsoever): I can sum it up in three words: Allocation Of Resources.

In a perfect world everyone could see a doctor at the very moment they required medical attention. However, a concept of triage (treating the most serious cases first... even if it means risking the death of other less serious cases) was developed because the sad fact is that in an emergency, there usually are not enough medical personnel around to treat everyone at the same time. The racial profiling that goes on at airports and at Israeli roadblocks is based on the same emergent need to allocate limited resources to the best result. In a perfect world each and every person would get a cavity search so that no bombs or weapons could be smuggled aboard planes or into Israeli cities/towns. But in our imperfect world where not every second person is a security screener or soldier, all travel would grind to a halt. There simply aren't enough security personnel to perform all the searches required to treat everyone 'fairly', so the system is left with three choices:

1. Search nobody (not very wise).
2. Search people completely randomly according to a lottery system (a poor allocation of resources that will use up precious personnel searching people who belong to groups that are statistically very unlikely to be smuggling bombs or weapons)
3. Search people that appear to belong to the statistical group responsible for the overwhelming majority of weapon smuggling and violent behavior.

It is worth noting that this policy is inherently flawed/unfair since it will inconvenience not only members of the statistical 'bad-guy' group who have no intention of acting badly, but it will also net anyone (e.g. Sephardic Jews, Spaniards, Italians, etc.) who shares the bad-guy appearance.

As a middle-easterner (Israeli) I have been pulled aside in such statistical profiling and I have absolutely no problem with it.

Now you say...

Posted by: treppenwitz | May 30, 2007 6:29:17 PM

Trep - looks like I touched a nerve, if you took the time to respond with such a long comment. Sure, Indira Gandhi treated the Sikhs very badly. That doesn't mean the appropriate response was assassination. Also, the patronizing comment about my "poor powers of observation" is really low - especially coming from someone who recently lamented that bloggers with whom he disagrees have stopped commenting on his blog. Why bother, if your reaction is to be patronizing, aggressive and hostile to every person who dares to (gasp) disagree with you, using completely non-hostile language? You asked a question and I answered it. By judging a person based on anything but his actions and character, you are stripping him of his individuality.

Your gratuitous attack on what I have written about the behaviour of individuals who happen to be settlers is not worth a response.

K Newman - My "serious accusation" is supported by many studies, including this one, published online by the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation. Pertinent quote: " Those familiar with the criminal justice system have long suspected -- if not been convinced -- that racial discrimination and stereotyping infect decision-making and skew the outcomes."

Posted by: Lisa | May 30, 2007 8:58:38 PM

Interesting article. I'm the webmaster of a major Sikh web portal www.sikhnet.com and happened upon your writings.

Most people mis-understand the significance of the kirpan to Sikhs. I quiver when I read descriptions like "ceremonial dagger". That description makes it sound like we use them to make sacrifices or kill things. In fact the kirpan is a symbol for Sikhs of protecting those who are in need of help. In the early Sikh history there was a lot of oppression by the mughal rulers of the time forcing people to convert to islam or be tortured/killed. It was the Sikhs that ended up being the "protectors" and standing up for those that had none.

Anyways...I could share more...but better to not post too long of a comment.

Posted by: Gurumustuk Singh | May 31, 2007 1:54:03 AM

Trep wrote If your point is that generalizations are often unfair to individuals, then I agree with you. However I still think that proven trends should be taken into account when making decisions... especially those to do with safety.

Oh, absolutely! Believe me, if I'm walking down the street late at night and a bunch of white frat boys come strolling down the alley - you bet your behind I'll not only cross the street, but find another one to wakl down.

Posted by: Kol Ra'ash Gadol | May 31, 2007 2:12:33 AM

Hey first of all its a good thing to see that people are accepting of our kirpans, as a Sikh that means a lot to me since I am always under constant family pressures to hide my kirpan and make sure no one sees it. On this Indira Gandhi subject, we as Sikhs regret she had to die and regret that we had to kill her, but we HAD to kill her. We believe that if by an act of violence, more violence can be stopped, then it is justified. Indra had started an "ethic cleansing" of Sikhs in India in which any devout sikh was arested and 250000 were killed in police custody. Well, just offerin my thoughts, and again I feel really good on you all's acceptance of my kirpan, now only if my school felt the same way....

Posted by: Gursean Singh | May 31, 2007 4:48:51 AM

To Lisa,

"Why bother, if your reaction is to be patronizing, aggressive and hostile to every person who dares to (gasp) disagree with you, using completely non-hostile language?"

Taking you to task, point by point, does not constitute being patronizing or hostile. I'm not sure what you meant by being "aggressive", good debaters should be aggressive in making their points. You need to thicken your skin or take the risk of being skewered by toothpicks.

On to your answer to me, which was, for the most part, a non-answer. Again, you mentioned numerous "studies" and yet all you provided was a single page of opinion that provided no footnotes and only mentioned a few sources in the text. That hardly constitutes a 'study.' It certainly does not provide the multiple studies you claim to exist. The opinion speaks only of drug convictions and not convictions in general. You weren't specific, you said "arrest and convict black males" so that opinion piece only covers part of your argument. The author....and I'm going by his bio on the website....appears to be another liberal Beltway Bandit. According to the bio, Sterling worked for the Democrat-controlled House Judiciary Committee, is liaison to an American Bar Association committee on substance abuse, has been quoted in the most leftist newspapers in the US, has been on numerous liberal talking-head television shows and is a champion of all sorts of leftist causes concerning drug enforcement. He has a bias. I'm not buying what he has to say. You'll have to do better than that.

Now, about blacks and crime. The reason blacks make up such a large percentage of the prison population is because they commit such a large percentage of felony crimes. Fact. Lisa, I am a police officer and I've spent too much time answering calls in the projects for you to tell me otherwise. I started out in a small town of ~3,600 people. The south side of town was almost entirely black, with two housing projects and surrounding slums. The northwest side was mixed race with no projects and the northeast side was mostly white, with a few middle-class black families. We received few calls in the NE side. The NW side had issues, but paled in comparison to what went on in the south end of town. Murder, aggravated battery, theft, burglaries, disturbances, drug busts, pregnant teenage girls with children from different fathers, children living in homes that were so nasty they would gag a maggot....you name it. Down there, civilization had all but collapsed.

The societal fabric within black communities rotted away decades ago. The majority of black children are now born out of wedlock. Drug use is spread across society, but if you're looking to buy some rock for the weekend, you'll most likely be wasting your time checking out the street corners in predominately white or Latino neighborhoods. Gang wars, turf battles between dopers, Gangsta culture....this is why a large proportion of the murders in the US occur in the inner city and why so many young black males are locked up. The good news is that the black middle class is growing and influential and accomplished blacks like Bill Cosby, Walter Williams and Thomas Sowell are speaking out about what has happened to blacks. But down in the ghetto, it's bad. And much of the crime that we arrest blacks for is committed against other blacks.

Don't want to take my word for it? Ok, here are my sources....law enforcement agency call logs. Any agency, it doesn't matter which one as long as they use Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD). When 911 calls or calls for service come in from the public, they are logged in the CAD. A query to the CAD will produce a printout of what calls were received for each zone or district, the types of calls and their disposition. Match up that data with the demographics of each zone or district (census data works) and you'll have a good idea of where the problem areas are located. And....at least here in Florida where we have the Sunshine Law....those logs are public record. They are also backed up with archived recordings of the actual calls to the comm center. The next time you're in the States, go down to the local PD or Sheriff's Office and request that data. Check it out for yourself. Being properly informed is your responsibility.

Posted by: K Newman | May 31, 2007 6:03:34 AM

Trep wrote:
"As a middle-easterner (Israeli) I have been pulled aside in such statistical profiling and I have absolutely no problem with it."

I firmly believe that people of good will, of all ethnicities, generally have no problem with being profiled, if it's done ethically and sensitively.

Case in point: For about five years, my neighbor across the hall was an immigrant from Algeria by way of France. We became friendly over the years, although we did learn to steer clear of certain topics of conversation. (Comparative religion - OK. Our kids - OK. Middle Eastern politics - NOT!) Anyway, we were shmoozing in the afternath of 9/11, and my neighbor brought up the subject of racial profiling. He said that in Paris, he always had to have his papers with him at all times, or he could wind up in jail. When he came to the States, he was shocked at the lack of profiling. He even went so far as to say that he would have felt safer if the cops had stopped & questioned him once in a while. "It would mean they were doing their jobs," he said.

Bottom line: Most people realize that profiling is not prejudice per se - it's simply, as Trep would put it, a form of public-safety triage. I myself have been stopped a few times at checkpoints. (I'm swarthy and bearded, so if I'm wearing a baseball cap over my yarmulkah, it's an easy mistake to make.) I always tell the police officer that I appreciate his efforts to keep us all safe. We're in a war, and there's no point in being overly sensitive about these things.

Posted by: psachya | May 31, 2007 12:08:17 PM

Lisa... If I hadn't responded (or had offered only a token response) you would have likely said I wasn't taking your comment seriously. Now that I've left a lengthy response you seem to be gloating over having 'touched a nerve' I guess I can't win. However since it's my blog I get to respond in the manner I wish, I'll offer you the following: Your comment about 'treating the Sikhs badly' is just a tad disengenuous. Indira Gandhi was well on her way to ethnically cleansing them, and their violence was a tiny murmur compared to the organized violence being directed against them as a group. The old youth group discussion topic about 'if you could go back in time would you try to kill Hitler?' is applicable to this discussion. There is little doubt that if left to her own devices Indira Gandhi would have wiped out the Sikhs as an organized community in India. If I were a Sikh and could time travel I would have pulled the trigger in a heartbeat. As to what you called 'the patronizing comment about your "poor powers of observation"... I calls 'em like I sees 'em. I actually was leaning towards your having willfully ignored all the evidence, but have it your own way. You spent most of your comment complaining about the tone of mine without actually addressing any of the points I made (there or in the follow-up comment). That indicates to me that you either agree with all the points I made or you couldn't be bothered to have an honest discussion of the issues. Your response to this will clear up that particular question.

Gurumustuk Singh...Feel free to share. Anything I've shared is simply second-hand information I found on the web. you're the real deal.

Kol Ra'ash Gadol... Sadly, few groups (of any color) in the US have retained the right to be assumed above suspicion. The Indian Sikhs, along with Buddhist monks, are among the last few groups that can be generally assumed to be benign.

Gursean Singh... I would love to see that 250,000 number expressed as a percentage of the overall Sikh community in India at the time. It would help me explain to certain commenters that the assassination of Gandhi was justified.

K Newman... I'll be interested to see if there is a response to this.

psachya... I think profiling is a form of prejudice. My point was that some prejudices are justified. As to whether they are 'good' or 'bad', those are terms that should be applied to the results, not the actions.

Posted by: treppenwitz | May 31, 2007 12:32:06 PM

in order to understand wat led to the assassination of Indira GAndhi u hav to go back in the time when india got the independence and even before tat look at the sikh history...thou sikhs only make up 2% of the india's one billion population yet thee number of sacrifices they've made r greater then any other ethnic group in india...sikhs were promised many things at the time of independence by jawharlal nehru and mahatma gandhi and which were never kept...sikhs had a contribution of more then 90% sacrifices made for the independence and all whose who were hanged...yet sikhs neva got in return what they deserved......the indian govt. hav failed to recognize sikhs and their contributions....more then half of indian population don't even know wat sikhs r and wat have then done for india before and after independence...oh wait before 1947 there was no india it was made up of all differents rajs...

Posted by: Sahib Singh | Jun 1, 2007 3:33:39 AM

i feel real safe when i am accompanied by a Sikh

Posted by: steve | Dec 18, 2008 6:32:07 AM

This Life, which seems so fair,
Is like a bubble blown up in the air
By sporting children's breath,
Who chase it everywhere

Posted by: WinchesterWing | Sep 8, 2010 11:36:48 PM

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