I have seen countless comments on the dozens of blog posts I’ve read in connection with the George Zimmerman homicide case that make reference to the “fact” that the killing couldn’t have been racially motivated because GZ is Hispanic (sic), not white.
Somewhere along this country’s checkered path to 2013, it seems some white people came to believe that even racism belongs solely and exclusively to them.
According to some reports, Zimmerman consciously chose to play down his Peruvian half during the run-up to the trial, for fear he would be dismissed as another “mere minority.” The very fact that he thought he had that choice makes it clear he himself supposes an aspect of white privilege that no mixed-race black person who looks mostly black can ever opt for.
Just for the record, racial profiling can be done by anybody! And yes, that does include other black people. So let me be perfectly clear:
It is not necessary to be white to be guilty of racial profiling. If you see a young black male walking in the dark, in the rain, wearing a hoodie, and you think to yourself, “What’s he doing here? He doesn’t belong here, therefore he must be up to no good and must be on drugs or something,” you have just engaged in profiling with a racial component, I don’t care what “race” you call yourself. If you had seen the identical figure walking in the rain with his hood up, but he was white or Chinese, would you have thought him suspicious? If your answer is no, then you know you have racially profiled the black youth.
There are plenty of black people who live in gated communities who might just have the same initial reaction to seeing Trayvon Martin that fateful night. We are not immune to profiling. I live in a community that is struggling with a new rash of street crimes, home burglaries, and even murders. It seems like 98% of the descriptions of suspects include “black male.” There is no question that these facts have caused the residents, including me, to be hyper-vigilant about people we encounter who meet those general descriptions. I, myself a black woman, have called the police and/or the neighborhood security patrol on black men and women who have been behaving unusually. In one case, my doing so allowed the police to catch the thieves in the act.
What we don’t do is grab our guns, jump in the car, and follow the person we’ve adjudged suspicious. For one thing, it would be stupid. Many, if not most, of these gang thugs are armed. We leave the confrontation to the professionals we hire to patrol the neighborhood or to the police. If they get away, they get away. We’ll catch them next time.
Lezlie Bishop is a retired public relations professional who retired after 25 years in a large corporation. She is a multi-racial black woman, born in 1944 in suburban Chicago. Lezlie blogs on Open Salon and Our Salon under the name L in the Southeast.