This post is an interlude, so it sort of doesn't fit into the schedule I set up with the six arguments for affirmative action and six against (see the first post in the series, which also has links to parts II and III). I assume I'll pick up with the third argument for affirmative action in part V.
For now I wanted to record a thought I had while hearing an argument for a minimalist kind of racial profiling, in particular with regard to terrorists since 9/11. If airline screening is completely random, it seems as if it will be far less effective than if they take into account characteristics that are more common among terrorists. Racial profiling is stupid if it doesn't involve any reason to single out the people being singled out, as with the case of stopping black people on the New Jersey Turnpike, when it turned out black motorists weren't any more likely in that context to be doing anything illegal. Even those who would resist using race as the basis for finding terrorists (which it may be a good idea to resist, since al Qaeda has been reported to be using European-looking operatives) should acknowledge that it is a factor that seems relevant enough to consider it. The discussion I heard the tail end of on one of the cable news networks a few minutes ago ended with someone arguing that race or ethnicity should at least be considered as a tie-breaker between two people who might be considered for a screening. All of this language sounded remarkably like the language used in affirmative action discussions.
It made me wonder if allowing affirmative action for reasons having to do with race really being relevant (e.g. it's a real qualification or it has good enough effects for historically oppressed people) then you have to allow racial profiling when race really is relevant (e.g. in a certain neighborhood people fitting a certain description with a racial component are much more likely to be criminals than others). I think the answer is yes. If race can be relevant for singling people out for a benefit, then it should also be relevant for singling someone out for closer scrutiny involving criminal enforcement. I suspect most affirmative action proponents would be reluctant to concede this.
On the other side, we get just as interesting a result. If affirmative action is wrong in principle because it's wrong to single out anyone's race for any classificatory reason, as some affirmative action opponents believe, then racial profiling must always be wrong on the same grounds. If affirmative action is wrong except as a tie-breaker, then it seems that racial profiling must also always be wrong except as a tie-breaker. The fellow whose argument I caught the tail end of realizes this. I wonder how many conservatives do.
So this now joins the abortion/capital punishment set of issues as an interesting set of seeingly unrelated moral views that standardly fall in opposite combinations despite what you'd expect. In that case, there are consistent positions for affirming capital punishment and opposing abortion (not that most conservatives have thought carefully enough about why) and consistent positions that allow abortion but oppose capital punishment (though again most liberals dont think carefully enough about why). Maybe such nuanced positions will turn up here, with conservatives giving interesting reasons why racial profiling might be ok while affirmative action is wrong and liberals giving carefully thought-out reasons why affirmative action is good but racial profiling always wrong. In this case, the tie seems stronger than with capital punishment and abortion, so I'm not holding my breath. I suspect each more absolute position really will need to have the parallel view not standardly held in combination with it.