Editorial in the Las Cruces Sun-News entitled, "DOES RACIAL PROFILING AUTOMATICALLY MEAN RACISM?"

August 15, 2013

A recent Gallup poll found that only 1% of Americans believe “Race relations/Racism” is the most important problem in our country today. In fact, racism ranked 14th among other non-economic problems cited. This is good news; we’ve come a long way since the Jim Crow segregation era ended almost 50 years ago. Minorities, rightfully, occupy many positions of power in this country; both business and government. So, why do stories such as the Zimmerman/Martin shooting become such polarizing national sensations?

As I pointed out in my last article, the evidence overwhelming supported George Zimmerman’s innocent verdict. Specifically, his advocacy for blacks, evidence presented in court, and the independent FBI report proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that George was innocent of the charges and had no racist intent.

Unfortunately, this did not stop an unreasonably biased media from injecting race into a story where there was none. Ironically, if George had a traditional Hispanic name, the press most likely would have ignored the story. However, since my last article chronicled the media bias covering the trial, I’ll focus this article on the unfair political injection of race.

George Zimmerman was accused of “profiling” Trayvon Martin. This term is thrown about politically nowadays to insinuate prejudice/racism. Webster defines profiling as “the act of suspecting a person on the basis of observed characteristics or behavior.” So, did George profile Trayvon? In fact, George profiled Trayvon in multiple ways. But the real question becomes…Is profiling racist?

Let me make this clear…profiling is not racist, its common sense. Now, many liberals reading this article just gasped in horror because they believe I just made the statement that racism is common sense. But that is not what I said. In fact, this is precisely my point: some politicians have successfully redefined “profiling” to mean prejudice; and more specifically “racial profiling” to mean racism. This is not only incorrect, but harmful and divisive.

While profiling can involve prejudice and racism, profiling is not inherently racist. For example, pretend I am a limo driver on assignment to pick-up an NBA basketball player at the airport. I’m not familiar with this particular player, so besides holding a sign with his name on it I find myself looking for a tall, young, well-dressed, physically fit black man.

Am I being racist? Of course not; I simply put together the evidence of height, age, attire, condition, race, and NBA demographics to find my client. Notice I profiled in multiple different ways, not just racially; and granted, the client doesn’t have to be any of these things, but chances are he is. This affords me the best possibility of finding him. And I accomplished this without the slightest bit of prejudice or racial animosity in my heart toward this individual. I simply used circumstances in a common sense way to arrive at a reasonable conclusion in order to make the most efficient decision possible. Now apply this to Zimmerman. George most likely profiled based on age, race, gender, and behavior. He saw a young, black man walking around “like he is on drugs” according to the 911 call. Based on the context of police reports involving recent burglaries by young black men in George’s neighborhood, he put this information together…i.e. profiled. Using this circumstantial evidence, he then came to a common sense conclusion of suspicion; which eventually resulted in a decision to call 911. Without the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, it seems George used a legitimate and rational thinking process resulting in a conclusion and decision that could have been completely void of any racist intent. Aside from being incorrectly labeled a racist, there is another serious consequence in allowing ourselves to be intimidated by politicians who claim that profiling means racism: we stop using common sense to make decisions.

For example, a TSA inspector at the airport must make a decision on which passenger to frisk, because limited resources don’t allow them to frisk everyone. Does the TSA inspector choose the dark-skinned, bearded fellow wearing a turban, or the 90 year old grandmother? I realize the granny could be a killer, and the Muslim is most likely a wonderful person; but you have to go with the odds. However, because of the political use of “profiling” and the possibility of being fired due to an unfair accusation of racism, the TSA inspector chooses against common sense and frisks the granny. You see how political correctness might lead to bad decisions?

Irresponsible politicians depend on racist claims to maintain their political base and hurt their enemies. This may work politically, but it is not fair and relieves them from making a civil and responsible merit-based argument. In fact, many who disagree with me often do the same by responding to my articles with name-calling and animosity instead of a calm and reasoned argument.

Ad-hominem attacks such as racism do nothing to further the discussion, unfairly label those who have honest disagreements, and create political discord. Ironically, profilers are not the racists; the true racists are those who see race first and foremost in every issue, and use it to their political advantage.

Neal Hooks