September 18, 2002

Rationalizing Racism

Imagine a home security system that pledged to eradicate intruders. Instead of sounding an alarm, however, it carefully scanned the physical characteristics of the assailant and stored the description in a master database. While all of this is going on, the intruder gets the hell out with your Dodge. Rest assured, however, that if anyone fitting even a slight description of that person comes by in the future, even if it’s simply your paperboy with sunburn, that person would face a swift and violent death.

Guess what, consumers! We have such a product just for you—our justice system! Yes, the anti-terror government once again displayed its penchant for closing the cash register long after the money has been swiped. Critics call it “racial profiling”; proponents call it, well, “racial profiling.” Over the past year, racial profiling has been promoted from the politely ignored elephant in the room to headlining status at the circus.

The procedure goes something like this: 1) Watch helplessly as minority commits disgusting atrocity; 2) Build hatred by watching the clip again all day and night for weeks; 3) Publicly vow that this is the last time those people get to you; 4) Get re-elected for your “tough stance on crime.” Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

Everybody seems to be all for racial profiling now that the term has been successfully transferred in connotation from black motorist to Arab terrorist. Even some progressives have joined the fray, calling for the suspension of someone’s legal rights only on the basis of their looks. Why? If the potential for terror truly exists at the airport, surely more pertinent warning signs will manifest than the suspect’s SPF requirement.

Advocates of the practice argue that other nation-states use it with much success. Gee Wally, but if rogue states—hell-bent on annihilating the country next door in the name of loving thy neighbor—are now our role models, then perhaps the United States is less civilized than we fantasize.

I don’t see the point of putting the 24/7 watch out on a whole ethnicity simply because of what one rogue group of fanatics did. Didn’t President Bush call for us not to do this very thing following the attacks?

The pages of American history are peppered with paranoid atrocities in the name of freedom. Consequently, our apology credit card is already over the limit, and we can’t stop charging! Maybe racial profiling would make more sense if it were fairly applied to all races. The whole question of fair use, however, is moot; the fatal flaw against racial profiling is its selectiveness. After all, as the great white prophet Eminem once said, “It feels so empty without me!”

If a rouge gang of Caucasians perpetrated some terror, would this system work? Hah! Case in point: after Timothy McVeigh’s cowardly “statement,” the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, did anyone even consider for a nanosecond interring whites? Of course not! Should it have been considered? No. And that right there should send a red flag regarding the efficacy of racial profiling.

This practice is not a crime-fighting tool; it is an excuse to exhibit everything that personifies the idea of the “ugly American” to the rest of the world. Terrorists don’t hate our freedom; they hate our arrogance. Why fuel their fire further?

Racial profiling is simply the latest in a string of excuses for locking up and withholding minorities. It is a complex network encompassing the media, the law and the human mind. Although it might hurt our primal will, we still must adhere to our sacred principle of innocent until proven guilty.

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