Ken Berwitz

Do you worry about a young Black male – not in a suit or in business-casual clothes, but wearing funky street clothes, maybe with his pants slung down below his rear end, wearing a hoodie?

I know I do.  So does that make me a racist?

Before you answer, please read the following excerpts from Walter Williams\’ (typically) excellent commentary at

Hillary Clintontold a mixed audience, “I mean, if we\’re honest, for a lot of well-meaning,open-minded white people, the sight of a young black man in a hoodie stillevokes a twinge of fear. Before we get into the nuts and bolts of thatobservation, I\’d like to ask a question. Would well-meaning, open-minded whitepeople have a similar fear at the sight of an elderly black man using a walkerand wearing a hoodie?

Whether we likeit or not, easily observed physical characteristics – such as race, sex, heightand age – convey information. That’s because there is often a correlationbetween those characteristics and other characteristics not so easily observed.Say that you\’re a police commander faced with the task of finding vandalsresponsible for slashing car tires and smashing windows. How much of the city\’sresources would you expend investigating 60- to 70-year-old Chinese men? Youprobably wouldn\’t spend resources on any men in that age group. So who isresponsible for your decision not to investigate 60- to 70-year-old Chinese menand other men of the same age? If you said it\’s the behavioral reputation ofthat demographic as a group, you’d be absolutely right.

So what are we tomake of Clinton\’s observation? Who is responsible for “a lot of well-meaning,open-minded white people” experiencing a “twinge of fear” at “the sight of ayoung black man in a hoodie”? Before coming up with your answer, know that incities such as New York, Chicago and Washington, black taxi drivers often avoidpicking up young black males. A black female commissioner in Washington oncewarned cabdrivers against picking up “dangerous-looking” characters – forexample, a “young black guy … with (his) shirttail hanging down longer than hiscoat, baggy pants, (and) unlaced tennis shoes.” A black and Hispanic presidentof the New York State Federation of Taxi Drivers told his drivers to “profile” their passengers. “The God\’s honest truth is that 99 percent of the people thatare robbing, stealing, killing these drivers are blacks and Hispanics,” hesaid.

What do you think?  Does Mr. Williams make sense?

You bet he does.

Black people who are not criminals (and that means a very large majority of Black people) can certainly be victimized by White racism – which, be assured, is alive and well.  Obviously that includes young Black males – even young Black males who wear hoodies.  

But why is it racist to profile, based on the probability that a young Black male is dramatically more likely to commit a criminal act than other demographic segments?  Why is it anything but logical.  

Do you disagree?  Do you think White people are racist for being concerned by Black males in street clothes, when the crime rate for that segment is multiples of the crime rate for everyone else?  

Before answering, think about whether you blame BLACK people for having identical concerns for the identical reasons – which, as Mr. Williams points out, they do?  Why is their logic any more or less reasonable than a White person\’s?

Let me say it again:  racism most certainly exists in this country (and every other country on earth – most of which have far more of it with far less redress than we do:  a little factoid the Hillary Clintons of the world convenienty forget).  But worrying about a high-crime rate population segment is not racist.  It is not wrong.  

In fact, not worrying about it is pretty dumb.

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