More thoughts on Racial Profiling at Downtown Disney

Breaking: Local Orlando News 13 is reporting that upon request for review by one of the boy’s families, Disney is reducing the ban to one year for the FSU football prospects. That’s not quite the apology they deserve, but it’s a step in the right direction.

I really feel Disney has made a bad decision in their recent banning of a large number of black and hispanic guests from the park. If you’re tired of hearing about this already then feel free to move on, otherwise, my editorial is below the cut.

As I linked to earlier, The Orlando Sentinel has a longer story on Disney’s recent practice of
banning teens from loitering at Downtown Disney. The story examines what
similar properties have done with the problem of loitering teens.
Columnist Mike Thomas has some good points too, a simple apology to the
FSU students would go a long way. And Sports Columnist David Whitley
tried a little loitering of his own with predictable results.

Wikipedia defines loitering
as “to stand idly, to stop numerous times, or to delay and
procrastinate.”  This definition could fit any of the teens who visit
DTD whether on vacation or locals who happen to be out for a night of
fun. As with many neighborhood malls, Disney has essentially said to teenagers we
don’t want you as guests and we can arbitrarily ban you for life, so
you better watch out. That is totally in Disney’s rights to do as a
private business. Is it a good business decision? It probably is,
because it will result in an public view that Disney is being tough on
crime, even though they’re just being tough on teenagers who hang out.
They public is usually not that picky, they just want to see action.

But when Disney, or the off duty sheriff’s hired to act as Disney’s
proxy, use racial profiling to decide which teens to eject, they’re
crossing the line. As shown in the results of who was banned these last
few weeks, 44 of 48 were Black or Hispanic, despite an overwhelming percentage of white tourists on the property. Q.E.D. some form of racial
profiling exists. Disney’s continues to claim they’re just cracking
down on loiterers, however, if that were really the case Disney would end up banning every teen sitting
on a bench a majority of which would represent the average Disney tourist, white and middle class..

The sad thing is Disney, the theme parks in particular, has a great
history of doing a lot to end racism. They reach out to minority
communities with grants and marketing. They focus on racial diverse
advertising. They provide extra programs to help get employees in from
economically downtrodden areas. Even during the previous years security trespass sweeps they had a much more balanced racial ratio of trespassed patrons.

The four FSU prospects, whose only offense, according to the supervising
Sheriff quoted in the paper, is refusing to see a movie or leave and possibly talking back
to security officers when confronted for “hanging out”, would not have
been approached if they weren’t targeted to be followed in the first
place.

Why were they followed is the key question? Was it enough for
security to target the group just because they were young black men? If
so, that’s where the error was. If the young men were exhibiting threatening, lewd, or ganglike behavior they should be approached at that point. But no one claims that was the case with the FSU students.

Read this report to understand why racial profiling doesn’t work. When you waste security resources on racial profiles you to miss the
offenses committed by people who don’t fit the profile. It also conflates the
situation when innocents are swept up in your net. These unintended targets have no real way to defend themselves because the racial profiling has already labeled them as guilty just for fitting the profile. They’re left with no choice but to obey an order to vacate that should never have been given to them in the first place. You can see why this might upset a few of the targets.

Behavorial profiles
have proven to be much more efficient. Is it a hot day and that guy is
wearing a heavy rain coat and sweating profusely? (Something the pro’s call acting ‘Hinky’.) Well then that’s a
cause for suspicion. Four young men hanging out and oodling girls while
sitting on a bench is what young men do. Not hinky at all.

Should Disney do something to make guests feel safer about coming to Walt Disney World? As far as I know, crime has not actually gone up inside Disney property boundaries. In fact, crime rates in Orlando dropped recently (although violent crime is rising). But it’s the perception that counts.

This recent Downtown Disney sweep is simply a perception move. As I said before, the public is not picky, they just want to see action. The same perception of a crackdown could have been accomplished without sweeping up minorities as 44 of 48 of the trespass warnings. Disney should do the right thing and admit the racial ratio is in error and apologize to those indirectly caught up in the dragnet.

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