During a Senate hearing on Democrat-sponsored legislation aimed to prohibit racial profiling by law enforcement officers, an attorney who served in the Department of Justice said the underlying problem of high rates of criminal behavior and out-of-wedlock births in the black community should be a part of the discussion.

Roger Clegg, who served in the DOJ’s civil rights division in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, was a witness at a Senate hearing on Tuesday and made the remarks in his opening statement.

“I think that this is an important point to make whenever we’re talking about racial disparities,” said Clegg, who now is president and general counsel for the Center for Equal Opportunity.

“As I said Mr. Chairman, I’m opposed to profiling, particularly profiling in the traditional law enforcement context where frequently it is African Americans who are the victims of that profiling,” Clegg said, addressing Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who chairs the Senate Judiciary Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights Subcommittee. “I’m against that.

“Nonetheless I think we have to recognize that it’s going to be tempting for the police and individuals to profile so long as a disproportionate amount of street crime is committed by African Americans and there will be a disproportionate amount of street crime is committed by African Americans for so long as more than seven out 10 African Americans are being born out of wedlock,” Clegg said.

“I know this is not a popular thing to say, but I think whenever we’re discussing racial disparities in the United States that is the elephant in the room, and it has to be addressed,” Clegg said. “So ultimately, people like me, and everyone else I think in this audience who don’t like racial profiling is going to have to face up to this problem.”

Some members of the audience at the hearing gasped when Clegg made his remarks, but according to the federal government, statistics show that blacks have the highest rate of out-of-wedlock births in the U.S.—72 of every 1,000 live births are to black women who are not married, according to 2006 figures from the National Center for Health Statistics.

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