Abstract

http://ssrn.com/abstract=1474809
 
 

Footnotes (61)



 


 



Henry Louis Gates and Racial Profiling: What's the Problem?


Bernard E. Harcourt


Columbia University

September 17, 2009

Paper Presented at the Malcolm Wiener Inequality & Social Policy Program, Harvard University
U of Chicago, Law & Economics, Olin Working Paper No. 482
U of Chicago, Public Law Working Paper No. 277

Abstract:     
A string of recent studies has documented significant racial disparities in police stops, searches, and arrests across the country. The issue of racial profiling, however, did not receive national attention until the arrest of Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., at his home in Cambridge. This raises three questions: First, did Sergeant Crowley engage in racial profiling when he arrested Professor Gates? Second, why does it take the wrongful arrest of a respected member of an elite community to focus the attention of the country? Third, why is racial profiling so pervasive in American policing?

The answers to these questions are interconnected: they turn on the fact that racial profiling is just another form of statistical discrimination and that, today, we all embrace statistical discrimination as efficient and justified whenever there are group-based differences in behavior or fact disparities. We have all become, today, statistical discriminators.

This answer, though, points to a solution in the racial profiling quandary, because statistical discrimination is misguided in dynamic situations where there are feedback effects. In policing, it is counter-productive to the law enforcement objective of reducing crime. Like Lani Guinier and Gerald Torres’s metaphor of the miner’s canary, the racial dimension of racial profiling is what troubles us in the arrest of Henry Louis Gates. But, just like the canary whose distress is a warning that the air in the mine is poisoned, the troubling aspect of race in the debate over racial profiling points to the larger problems of statistical discrimination writ large.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 31

Keywords: race, policing, racial profiling, criminal justice, statistical discrimination, ratchet effect, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Barack Obama, James Crowley

working papers series


Download This Paper

Date posted: September 21, 2009  

Suggested Citation

Harcourt, Bernard E., Henry Louis Gates and Racial Profiling: What's the Problem? (September 17, 2009). U of Chicago Law & Economics, Olin Working Paper No. 482; Paper Presented at the Malcolm Wiener Inequality & Social Policy Program, Harvard University; U of Chicago, Law & Economics, Olin Working Paper No. 482; U of Chicago, Public Law Working Paper No. 277. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1474809 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1474809

Contact Information

Bernard E. Harcourt (Contact Author)
Columbia University ( email )
Jerome Green Hall, Room 515
435 West 116th Street
New York, NY 10027
United States
HOME PAGE: http://www.law.columbia.edu/fac/Bernard_Harcourt
Feedback to SSRN


Paper statistics
Abstract Views: 2,147
Downloads: 385
Download Rank: 42,582
Footnotes:  61

© 2014 Social Science Electronic Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.  FAQ   Terms of Use   Privacy Policy   Copyright   Contact Us
This page was processed by apollo4 in 0.281 seconds