Do We Profile?

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Type “racial profiling meaning” in the Google Search Bar and you get this result:

“Noun –  The practice of substituting skin color for evidence as grounds for suspicion.”

I am not a lawyer.  I cannot and will not speak to Florida’s “stand your ground law,” nor to the complexities of the legal  definitions of “second-degree murder” and “manslaughter,” nor to the meaning of “self-defense” as found in the 27 page set of instructions given to the 6-member jury.

I will not pass judgment on the jury or on the lawyers on either side.

But on the night of February 26, 2012, George Zimmerman passed judgment on 17 year-old Trayvon Martin. The grounds for judgment?  Skin color.

My younger son’s favorite snack growing up was Skittles.  My thoughts and emotions immediately went to him when I read that Trayvon was walking home from a convenience store where he had bought Arizona Iced-Tea and Skittles.  If that had been Devin out that night in that neighborhood, with Skittles in his pocket, he would have come back to his mom and dad unharmed.  Now, be honest.  We know this is true.  But when black 17year- old Trayvon Martin went out that night just to get a snack, he ended up dead.

Some people believe this case has nothing to do with race, that Trayvon’s Blackness was inconsequential to his death.  I wonder if that perception is held only by those who’ve not been on the receiving end of racism or profiling.  If you don’t buy the “color-connection” ask yourself: Why did Trayvon seem suspicious?  Why was his hoodie threatening to Zimmerman?  No one, to my knowledge, has been suspicious of Mark Zuckerberg in his hoodie.

Zimmerman’s own words are incriminating.  Remember his words to the police dispatcher when he called in to report seeing Trayvon walking in his neighborhood: “F-king punks.  These a**holes.  They always get away.”  Why would he think Trayvon was a “punk”?  Had Trayvon “gotten away” from something in that neighborhood?  When the defense put up as a witness a white woman who had been robbed by black men as central to why Zimmerman picked out Trayvon to follow and stalk – it says it all.  Was she robbed by Trayvon? No.  So why should he be suspect? Sounds like profiling, doesn’t it?

In a speech by Attorney General Eric Holder, he said a couple of things that we would do well to consider:

First, “Today I’d like to join President Obama in urging all Americans to recognize that, as he said, we are a nation of laws, and the jury has spoken.”

Second, “The news of Trayvon Martin’s death last year, and the discussions that have taken place since then, reminded me of my father’s words so many years ago and they brought me back to a number of experiences I had as a young man, when I was pulled over twice and my car was searched on the New Jersey Turnpike when I’m sure I wasn’t speeding, or when I was stopped by a police officer while simply running to catch a movie, at night in Georgetown, in Washington, D.C.   I was, at the time of that last incident, a federal prosecutor.  So Trayvon’s death last spring caused me to sit down to have a conversation with my own 15-year-old son, like my dad did with me.  This was a father-son tradition I hoped would not need to be handed down.  But as a father who loves his son and who is more knowing in the ways of the world, I had to protect my boy.  I am his father, and it is my responsibility, not to burden him with the baggage of eras long gone, but to make him aware of the world that he must still confront.”

My dad never had such a conversation with me.  I never had such a conversation with my sons.  There was no need. Black parents have to teach their children not to wear hoodies.  But white people don’t need to have any such conversation.

Do we get it?  Do we know what it’s like to be a black youth?  To be under suspicion just because of how we look?  I don’t.  I don’t know what it’s like to walk down the aisle at the grocery store and see the lady coming toward me reach down and grab her purse that is sitting in her grocery cart – or meet a lady in the mall and see her move her purse to the shoulder farthest away from me.  Friends of mine in Springfield, MO do know what that’s like.  They aren’t white.

No, I can’t speak to the legal proceedings, reasonings and deliberations in the George Zimmerman trial. I don’t know if it was George Zimmerman or Trayvon Martin who threw the first punch, or who was on top of whom. But without the profiling, there would have been no punch – no shot – no death.

“Lord, in what ways am I guilty of profiling?”

There are six things that the LORD hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among others. Proverbs 6:16-19

“Lord, I don’t want to be a Samuel.”

When they arrived, Samuel took one look at Eliab and thought, “Surely, this is the LORD’s anointed!” But the LORD said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him.  The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them.  People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”  1 Samuel 16:6-7

I want to be, I need to be more like Jesus.  How about you?

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9 thoughts on “Do We Profile?

  1. For someone who claims to be non judgmental it would appear that you have now become judge, jury and executioner ! What I find even more disturbing than that is you are trying to convince people of your views buy using the bible. WOW !!! I am stunned !!! You have become what you so vocally condemn. I will pray for you my brother.

  2. I’ve never claimed to be non-judgmental. I’ve expressed a desire not to be. I’m looking at what I perceive as a situation of profiling – making a judgment based on appearance – and expressing my own vulnerability to do the very same thing and hence my need/desire to be like Jesus.
    I appreciate the prayer.

    • Thank you so much Phillip! You are such a blessing to us! You are always right on in your teachings!! God bless you!!!

    • Interestingly enough, I had that experience several years ago – except no machete and the request was for the use of a phone due to a breakdown of his car, not water. No, I didn’t let him in, offering to place a call for him instead. He walked away, drove off in his “broken down car” so I placed a call – to the police.

      Did I profile? Did George Zimmerman profile?

      Maybe we both did.

      I didn’t follow. George did- against the counsel of the 911 operator. I found it ironic that George Zimmerman’s brother, Robert, told Piers Morgan that he was fearful that people who were not happy with the verdict would “take the law into their own hands as they perceive it or be vigilantes in some sense…” Hmmmm.

      “Keeping it real” – I like that. I have discovered, though, that my “reality” is different from the “reality” of people like the ones I mentioned in the post who experienced “profiling” at the mall and grocery store. These two instances reflect the reality of so many in the black community. I’m trying to understand that.

      I’m trying to understand why African-American parents routinely have the “be careful how you dress,” the “if you drive an expensive car, some people will believe you stole it,” “the don’t walk too fast, don’t walk too slow,”talk, while white parents don’t have to have that talk with their children.

      The Martin/Zimmerman tragedy is seen through two sets of lenses. It is felt through a context of different experiences. I’m trying to understand that.

      Is it not preferable to focus on what people are actually doing, not on what they look like?

      • I agree wholeheartedly, Phillip.

        I’ll go a step further and say that there is profiling – sometimes warranted, sometimes solely prejudicial. Further, wealth buys a splendid defense in our imperfect legal system while poverty is left with the crumbs at times.

        But, Zimmerman did nothing illegal. You could argue he did something “stupid” by following. Perhaps he’d had enough of items being stolen and his neighbors living in fear….we’ll likely never fully know.

        A horrible tragedy ensued based in part on generations of misunderstandings and mistrust.

        We have a beautiful, albeit flawed, adversarial legal system. That antagonistic system is a must to defend even the known guilty and prevent tyrannical rule of any ideological bent.

        That imperfect system rendered the correct verdict based on the facts, the laws, and the prosecution’s inability to prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

        I can’t begin to understand the plight of a stereotyped minority. But, I also know that if the default mode after any conflict or disagreement with said minority is to decry the majority as racist…..we’re never going to get out of the starting blocks.

  3. I absolutely hate getting into discussions like this, but feel the need to speak. My husband is black, I am not. He’s not from here, but went to school here. At one point early in our marriage, we were pulled over. Our 6 month old son was asleep in the backseat. The cop told him to slow down and be careful. When the cop walked away, he looked at me completely stunned and said, this is the first time I have ever been pulled over in MO and not been pulled out of my car and searched. He’s even had police go through his food (that was sent from his grandmother after the holidays) with their bare hands, with no reason. He was pulled over again lately, without me, and questioned several times about what kind of job he has to afford a car like this. My son was with him and was absolutely shocked at the way the cop was speaking to his dad. Until you see and hear stories like this, you truly don’t understand. Profiling in your mind for safety and acting upon it are two totally different things in my opinion.

  4. It amazes me how 49 years after the civil rights movement issues like these still exist. On the matter of The Stand Your Ground law, I feel that Florida might as well declare Martial Law.

  5. I grew up the only “hippie chick” in a farming community. I experienced people trying to run me off the road on a few occasions and trying to throw a pipe through my windshield once while I was driving down the highway. I have also been the only white person on a city bus. The driver had to intervene to keep me from being beaten. For part of my life, I was overweight and was invisible to the beautiful people. I was a woman trying to build a career among men who thought women were supposed to be taking care of the house and kids. I believe prejudice is alive and, unfortunately, well and it comes in many, many forms. No one should ever be judged by their outward appearance. I wish I could fix and heal the injustices. I wish things weren’t this way. The only thing I have known to do is to live differently and hope it will call others to do the same.

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