Sunday, 3 February 2013

If We’re Going To Discriminate, Let’s Do It Properly

There’s talk at the moment in Westminster, and this morning on BBC’s The Big Questions, about whether the police should recruit more black officers through positive discrimination.  This has thrown up other issues about whether minority groups (Muslims and black youths, specifically) are unfairly targeted in situations like airport searches and police stops on the street.  Naturally a few people who feel discriminated against have made a lot of noise this week.  Who is right?

It might be easier to show who is right by showing who is wrong.  When it comes to positive discrimination, it seems quite clear to me that both groups have got the situation entirely backwards.  Those who condemn discrimination and the supposed undermining of civil liberties by arguing that the police should positively discriminate in favour of more black people are missing the fact that their proposal is simply another kind of discrimination with the signs reversed.  I’m against this kind of positive discrimination because, quite simply, you cannot artificially smooth the path for one group (whether it be for more black officers in the police force or more women in Parliament, or whatever) without artificially hindering the path of the rest of the group (or groups) that fall outside of the purview of the group for whom you are trying to positively discriminate. 

What the minority groups should be asking is whether the low numbers of black police officers is due to other factors that are not being considered properly (that’s a future Blog perhaps).  That is to say, you would think someone pretty idiotic if they said that the primary reason that there are so few female garage mechanics or female bricklayers is because women are being discriminated against.  Jobs should be awarded on two things; on merit (skills, experience, personality, enthusiasm) and on the basis that certain groups of people do actually want these jobs.  If most women don’t want to be bricklayers, and if most police officers are white due to the pretext of merit, desire, or some other reason, then this needs to be acknowledged before anyone makes an automatic assumption of unfair discrimination.

What about Muslims at airports?
Now to the people who are arguing that stopping a disproportionate number of Muslims at airports or stopping a disproportionate number of black youths for police searches is discrimination – I’m afraid they have got their reasoning entirely backwards too.  I make no comment here about whether targeting Muslims and black youths is preferable to random distributions, but let’s get the facts straight – it is not unfair discrimination, it is the opposite of unfair discrimination.

When it comes to who is statistically most likely to provide the biggest terrorist threat in an airport (or any public place), you know which group it is - it is fundamentalist Muslims.  Sure, most Muslims aren’t terrorists, but that’s irrelevant – the relevant thing is that most dangerous terrorists are Muslims.  You can be politically correct and insist that people at airports are searched in an entirely random fashion, but then you are unfairly discriminating against the vast majority of groups who statistically pose virtually no terrorist threat.  Those who say that targeting one specific group (even if they are the most likely group) is undermining civil liberties have missed the most important points.  In the first place, in net terms, detaining 15 Muslim men is no more of an infringement than detaining 15 passengers randomly selected, because in each case 15 people are being detained.  But in the second place, detaining 15 randomly selected passengers instead of a high-probability group is much more of an infringement of civil liberties, because if you’re going to detain 15 people, you should at least detain 15 people who are statistically more likely to be terrorists.  If you are one of the many in the randomly selected group that is statistically almost certainly not going to be a terrorist then you have been unfairly discriminated against.  The airports will have discriminated unfairly in order to assent to a spurious adherence to political correctness, and that is not a good thing.

Now, just because you detain certain targeted people, that doesn't mean you cannot treat them fairly and with respect.  If most of the terrorists likely to blow up your plane happen to belong to the same faith as you, then being detained and questioned is a burden that Islam pays.   Not only is this inevitable, it is actually prudent if you want people to do their jobs more efficiently.  If you want to be safer on planes or in tube stations, you want the group most likely to put you and you children at risk to be the ones targeted – you don’t want the authorities to waste time detaining and searching your grandmother Betty or your aunt Doris. 

The same applies to keeping our streets safe.  Statistics show that black youths commit 65% more crimes than whites, which means that it is unfair discrimination to choose a random sample of 100 people rather than a larger proportion of black youths.  To see this logic in more explicit terms, let’s pick a really extreme hypothetical to make the point clearer (for those that need it).  Consider that around 95% of youth crime in London comes from gangs on estates in rough boroughs of London.  Suppose that in wanting to tackle youth crime with strict adherence to political correctness the police decided they would randomly search 1000 people all over London (including, say, those in Kensington, those queuing up for the London Eye, those outside Harrods, etc) rather than randomly searching 1000 people in gangs on estates in rough boroughs of London.  It is obvious that here the level of unfair discrimination would be higher not lower, because just like in the airport, in that 1000 sample space you're targeting people who are some of the least likely to be complicit in youth crimes.  If the police are spending valuable time and resources searching your grandmother Betty or your aunt Doris when they go out to the bingo and the supermarket, then they are not searching youths who are statistically more likely to be committing crimes while Betty is on her way to Bingo and Doris is on her way to buy her soup and bread at Sainsbury’s.

For those who are still somewhat ill at ease that this is how the world works, and that many Muslims with no intention of terrorism will be detained at airports, the individuals in question could easily be compensated for their time.  Let me put it another way; would you pay an extra £1 added on to your plane ticket price to drastically reduce the chances of your plane having a terrorist on board?  I’ll bet most people would – I know I would.  According to the airport statistics, 68,068, 304 passengers visit Heathrow every year – so let’s round that to a simple 60 million.  If the airline (and all other airlines) added £1 to every flight ticket and called it a ‘Terrorist prevention surcharge’ then Heathrow and other airports connected to those Heathrow flights would have £60 million per year to spend on compensating the people being detained and searched, and on staff wages to employ people to do the detaining and searching.

Let’s say it would cost £10 million per year in wages and additional personnel costs - that leaves £50 million compensation money, which means you could give every detainee £25 compensation for a ten minute search, and afford to search two million people per year, which works out at nearly five and a half thousand people per day.  With such measures in place, that would act as a huge disincentive for would-be terrorists to even try to board planes, it would create £10 million worth of jobs, and it would make every passenger feel much safer on their travels.  It is better that than the current politically correct policy of pretending that Muslim men in their twenties are no less of a threat than your grandmother Betty or your aunt Doris.