Facts and fairness

My Buddy has been waiting to jump all over my DWBP post for a week and kept sending me hints that he was waiting for me to post it. When he finally pounced he didn’t really criticize its contents that much except for that issue of imprecision. He has a point. When I first wrote about Tim’s being pulled over many times this is what I said:

“He’s been pulled over for DWB (driving while black) not just the one time I mentioned previously but six times and just this summer. Last month it was three times.”

My Buddy points out that in my latest post I describe those numbers differently saying:

[my] “new friend Tim, a young black fellow, told [my emphasis] . . . [you] last year that he had been pulled over half a dozen times in as many months.”

Its true that the most recent post varies from the earlier one in the numbers expressed. Most recently I wrote that Tim was pulled over six time in six months. In my earlier post, just after talking to Tim I put it at an even more alarming number – six stops over a summer or six stops in three months. My Buddy says of the inconsistency that I am not “forthright.” I can’t deny that the two figures are inconsistent but I think I can be largely excused for this on two grounds.

First, I myself linked to a previous post which exposed my earlier claim. I’ll admit I did not go back and reread it to guarantee consistency. Rather, I recalled what I could remember being told. Secondly, I avoided escalating my numbers which might have been expected of a person attempting to bolster his arguments. Instead, I halved the real numbers thus undercutting my case. I’d like to think that is evidence of my natural inclination to avoid exaggeration.

I’m not a fanatic about what I regard as details. I will round figures up or down for simplicity’s sake. I write that the Red Plan cost a half billion when it was twenty million short of that total. I just don’t happen to think that the difference between 480 million and 500 million is that big a deal.

Earlier my Buddy criticized me for unfairly calling out Duluth’s police force for leaning too heavily on black drivers. There is some justice in this criticism. I didn’t go to the police department with my complaint. Instead I aired it on this blog. In doing so I was relying on my sense that Tim’s story had the ring of truth to me. I do trust my judgement in such matters and the anecdote I just related from last week adds weight to my judgement.

I’m not sure what I would recommend our police force do. I think patrolling high crime areas makes sense. However, knowing that spending time in such areas where pulling over black drivers is more likely it might make sense to start making a point of pulling over white drivers for small infractions to even the score. Certainly, if I’d been pulled over without Tim in the passenger seat I wouldn’t have felt called upon to reiterate my earlier concern about unequal treatment of black drivers.

Some folks have made a big deal out of the fairness issue when it benefits them. Some white Americans have killed off a lot of Affirmative Action by complaining that it unfairly favors minorities. Well, if we are going to eliminate quotas to keep things equal perhaps we should bend over backward to make sure white drivers are pulled over as often as black drivers – to keep things equal. It might not improve anyone’s driving or catch any more criminals but I think it would have the salutary effect of putting suspicious black drivers in a much better frame of mind. Fair’s fair.

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