7/20/2012 9:36:44 AM
I have recently exchanged several messages with “The Republican from Arizona” debating the fairness of the laws requiring the racial profiling of individuals who have the characteristics of illegals. He shared the often cited excuse that it is natural to be suspicious of individuals who share the same appearances of those who engage in illegal behavior. My response is that this excuse is the basic form of bigotry shared by people who genuinely think of themselves as open minded. In many other aspects of interaction with people of different races they allege no negative impressions based upon skin color or speech and consider themselves color blind. But taking a closer look reveals that this psychological attraction of negative thought based on physical appearance masks a basic belief that color makes a difference.
Examples: A female who automatically clutches her purse tighter when approached by a young black male; the automatic association of an address with poverty and crime, or demand for proof of citizenship because of visual confirmation that one is different.The common defense is that, if specific improper behavior is expressed most often by individuals with different characteristics, it is expected that one’s antenna will rise in their presence. If this logical response was applied in every situation it could be defended as self-preservation, but in reality we are selective in our attribution of negative traits based on appearance and our expectations of societal response varies. Examples would be the access to government assistance which when discussed conjures up an image of an unmarried African American or Hispanic female with children. In reality they make up but a small percentage of government wards that is dominated by poor whites including millions whose only source of income is Social Security.
Another example would be the identification of potential assassins whose traits have been dominated by white males. The experience of associating political violence by color would be influenced by the attacks on George Wallace; ML King; Bobby Kennedy; John Kennedy; Ronald Reagan and San Francisco’s Mayor, Harvey Milk, Columbine, and Aurora, Colorado. All of these perpetuated by white men and perhaps most revealing is our suspicions of pedophiles, acts of which are dominated by white men. Does this drive us to suspecting all white men are candidates based on their color? Of course not, but applying the rationalization of the Arizona law and my good friend “the Republican union member” we could justify random apprehension based on color and demand the presentation of proof. I can see it playing out “ok white guy, a child has been molested – let’s see your birth certificate.”
So the defense that to suspect improper behavior based on the actions by people who look the same, but when held up to the light is proven to be a lie. Five young men walking in a group reveal nothing by their appearance A Caucasian, an African American, a Hispanic, an American Indian and an Asian. Each could be a doctor, a lawyer, minister or policeman. Their color or speech tells us nothing of who they are, but we enact laws that if separated from the group the Hispanic may be challenged because in Arizona we associate him/her with illegal entry. How would you feel if you were required to prove your innocence of a suspicion based on no more than the way you look?