To understand why racial profiling is troubling, you must acknowledge the context.
Which to fear more: Crime, criminalization?
“Which to fear more: crime or profiling?” asks the headline on a Dec. 17 letter. In an nonracialized society, this would be a fair question. But, because the average Caucasian citizen and police officer has historically struggled to understand the unique differences between black males, this is not a fair question. It’s time for us to mature as a multiracial culture and be honest about the criminalization of the black male in our society. When a crime alert states “black male” on the University of Minnesota campus, the thousands of black males who are professors, staff members or students become looked at with suspicion and sometimes get stopped by police. Until everyone, regardless of skin color, can be treated equally, why don’t we give something else a try: actual and more specific details about a suspect, including facial hair, skin complexion minus color, clothing color and style, approximate height and weight?
DAN COLLISON, Minneapolis
Humans are not your typical ‘commodity’
In his Dec. 17 column, Steve Chapman asks us why we should expect labor markets to behave differently than any other market. Prices rise, demand falls. End of story.
In fact there is a difference between labor markets and other markets. When you raise the price of, say, a stove, the stove doesn’t use the additional revenue to go out and buy other goods and services. The unit of labor — a human being — does.
Henry Ford powerfully demonstrated this principle 100 years ago when he more than doubled the wages of his factory workers to an unheard of $5 a day. In so doing, he helped create a mass market of people who could afford to buy automobiles.
More-recent examples also refute Chapman’s argument. From the late 1940s through the 1970s, the price of labor steadily increased, and so did employment. From the 1980s through the present time, however, the price of labor has been flat — adjusted for productivity, it has in fact gone down dramatically — and employment has been stagnant.
Chapman has his studies and statistics, but numerous other respected economists (Alan B. Krueger is one) have shown that when the minimum wage rises, low-income people gain some in their quality of life and employment does not decline as a result.
DAVID J. THERKELSEN, Minneapolis
Subsidies for a needed new era, that’s all
It is human nature to assume that the way things are now is the normal state of things. Change has to be justified. The status quo is “natural.” Funds spent to encourage public transportation (like the Northstar commuter-rail line) are called subsidies, but money spent on new roads and bridges is not (“Northstar subsidies stay high as fares cuts,” Dec. 17).
The vision of our current transportation system was born at a time when fossil fuels were cheap and plentiful. The negative effects of using them were less apparent. We subsidized the building of roads at a level that dwarfs what we are spending on alternative transportation now. We wanted the ability to drive our personal cars anywhere, anytime, and we got it. But now we have to adjust to new realities. It is clear to anyone not blinded by ideology that a car-centric transportation system is not sustainable. Fixing the system will mean spending more on alternatives. The longer we wait the more expensive it will be.
The Opinion section is produced by the Editorial Department to foster discussion about key issues. The Editorial Board represents the institutional voice of the Star Tribune and operates independently of the newsroom.