Many have jumped to the conclusion that racism or racial profiling was the motivation for the shooting of Trayvon Martin. It may have been or it may not. The simple truth is that we don’t know yet. The only other person there that night, the shooter, denies it and there isn’t much else to prove or disprove it yet.
Nonetheless, racial profiling does exist and it is an ugly, dangerous thing especially for those in a group being profiled. There is no question that racial profiling can and too often does lead to harassment of people for no other reason than because of their race, culture or religion.
While I deplore the opportunism of those, particularly the mainstream media who are trying to turn the death of one young black man into a circus, I admire what a group of Howard University students have done in this video to draw attention to this issue.
Watch the video.
While this video is inspired by the death of Trayvon Martin and speaks to the the reality of what many young black men face every day in society, racial profiling is not exclusive to the black community.
Racial profiling is categorization of a group based on generalizations about that group, generalizations and negative stereotypes, rooted in fear and which usually are untrue.
In Tucson, Arizona there was more security than board members for a local school board meeting to discuss the cancellation of a Mexican-American studies program. There was fear of violence propagated by racial profiling and. even 8 and 9 year old Latino children were subjugated to intense security checks before allowed into the ‘school’ with their parents where the board was meeting. (see video link below)
As a result of terrorism, airline passengers are profiled at security. Those who fit certain profiles are given even more intense scrutiny than the others flying particularly if they are middle eastern or ‘look’ Muslim. In certain cities, young Asian men are profiled as potential street gang members.
It wasn’t so long ago that those of Italian descent were profiled as being connected to the mob and anyone from the south was probably named Billy-bob and a member of the Klan.
Now, the Department of Homeland Security is attempting to develop a method to predict terrorists and criminal behaviour based on profiling in much the same vein as the Tom Cruise movie, Minority Report.
Racial profiling doesn’t help in correctly identifying potential threats to our societies, it perpetuates negative stereotypes about definable groups that only reinforce fear and intolerance and that is fertile ground for the growth of racism. You don’t have to take my word for it. The more racial profiling we have in our society, the less safe we feel.
Whether racial profiling was the real motivation behind the shooting of Trayvon Martin, we don’t yet know but we do know that thousands of young black men, thousands of Muslims, thousands of Latinos, Asians and countless others are subjected to suspicion, not because of their actions, but because they fit a profile.
Those who want to be leaders in our society do society a grave injustice by perpetuating the myths on which racial profiling is built. The mainstream media, black community leaders including Oprah Winfrey and even the president have the opportunity to change the agenda instead of riding the old agenda of intolerance. Celebrities like Bill Maher and Anderson Cooper trample due process in their rush to judgement and in the process, extend racial profiles. They are failing all of us and the very communities they claim to represent.
I admire the young men who produced this video. Unlike many who purport to be leaders in the black community, they have asked the right question and whether they intended it at the time or not, they asked the right question for all of us who are part of some racial or religious or cultural profile.
Most of them will go on to become professionals. They will become doctors, lawyers, engineers and successful members of the black community, but more importantly, of ‘the’ community. Maybe, as a result of young men like these and many others from many other communities in our society, there will come a day when we will all simply be part of one profile. We will be profiled as people and our race, our religion, our politics and our culture really won’t matter at all.
On that day, we will have become a better society because we will have learned to define ourselves by what unites us rather than defining groups by what sets them apart.
On that day, we will no longer be afraid of each other. We will no longer fear someone simply because they look different than us. It isn’t a race, a culture or a religion that is the threat to our society. It is fear and racial profiling is only one more thing that perpetuates that fear.