Profiling is an act of discrimination. Discrimination is the act of stereotyping, of generalizing, of lumping all the coal in one bucket. There are laws in America against discrimination based on race, color, creed, gender, ethnicity, physical ability, mental ability, height, weight, and color of eyes. Anywhere discrimination exists the Federal Government is there to root it out. In America any person can think discriminatory thoughts – they just cannot act on those thoughts. So what is the deal with discriminating against my Pit Bull?
(Warning to readers – the author is compelled to use subtle sarcasm).
I should qualify that I am a man in the politically correct category of Senior. As soon as the reader read ‘male’ and ‘Senior’ the reader’s brain went right to their profile of what Senior means. The reader probably has some idea of what I must look like (gray hair and wrinkled skin), have some idea about my education level (some college to avoid Vietnam), assume that I must have some training in typing (I am typing this post), and guess that I grew up in a time of racial segregation (born before the Civil Rights Act in 1964). The reader might also assume that I do not do much ‘Texting’ because I type full words in complete sentences. However true or false the assumptions – the need to profile is human in nature. We seem to require a reference point for thinking.
Some young folks pass me on the highway and shout something about driving too slow. Other young folks step back in the grocery store checkout line to allow me to move ahead. Each of these acts cause me to further develop my own profile of young folks. That is how profiling works – we take a few empirical life experiences and add them together – we call the process experience.
The great thing about experience is that it cuts two ways. The young man who yelled at me on the highway was not just pissing in the wind – he had some experience to justify his discrimination. He might have been wrong in his action – but he felt justified. Some old person somewhere really got under his skin. As an old person I accept the that reality and add that knowledge to my profile of young people.
We were each born into this world with a empty brain. From the moment we are born we begin the life-long process of developing discrimination. Why do you suppose babies like their mother more than their father? The mother holds the baby gently in her arms, the father throws the baby to the ceiling and catches them with a hearty laugh. It turns out that babies are actually pretty smart. Eventually the baby grows old – like me. The sum of life experience adds up. The problem arises when we use early distortions of life to measure and categorize future experience. A small child, bitten by a neighbor dog, may live their life profiling all dogs based on the one experience. Look for the worst and you will probably find it – cementing your discrimination. None of this is right or wrong – it is just a simple matter of learned behavior.
Well, some discrimination is just wrong:
- Like a man and a woman do the exact same job to the same level of expertise, but the man is paid more because he is a man. The root of this discrimination hearkens back to a time when men were the sole breadwinners – women were seen as a cheap source of labor – after all, it was not like they supported their family or anything.
- Racial discrimination has deep roots. Literally hundreds of years of the false belief that people of color were less intelligent limited their hopes and dreams – to put it politely. To be more accurate we have to acknowledge that people of color were considered less than human. They were treated like other animals as servants to humans. The discrimination continued because young white children and young black children were taught from birth to believe in the stereotype. No one won – this period of time was as devastating to the advancement of humanity as any war or plague.
Without condoning the discrimination it serves all of us well to at least understand the roots. Problems are easier to fix if we understand the cause.
Humanity is now in the 21st Century since the birth of that colored Jew Arab beggar who had long hair and dressed like a girl and never married. We have learned to look past much of his profile – our art work presents him as a regular white European – but even the art work has him dressed like a girl, and he never married – what does that tell you? To complete the profile we must acknowledge that he talked about love and forgiveness and liked to hold children on his lap. Sometimes there are truths that are just undeniable. Anyone care to complete this profile?
But here we are – 21st Century humans. Ready to be more informed, less influenced by individual life experience, willing to learn from the vast experience of humanity. Most Americans can read. Our libraries are full of books of the human experience over time. We value the collective wisdom of man over the narrow experience of the individual. We no longer have to be afraid of snakes or scorpions or Pit Bulls – science has given us informed insight – fear has been replaced by respect. The sun no longer revolves around the earth, heavenly bodies are now referred to as the universe. African Americans are can read and write, and function equally well with regular humans. Women are competent engineers and architects and design nice kitchens. People with physical or mental limitations have a place in our civilized world. The collective knowledge of humanity seems to be the central inoculation against discrimination.
If only life were so easy.
Collectively, we Americans watched in horror as nineteen men of Arab descent hijacked four airplanes and killed almost 3,000 innocent people on September 11, 2001. We collectively watched in horror as videos of Osama Bin Laden filled our television screens. His manner of dress, his claim of religion, his discriminatory hateful attitude toward Americans, and his proud claim of responsibility for the horrific deaths of Americans saturated our mentality. Is anyone surprised that an Arab looking man, wearing his traditional Middle Eastern Islamic clothes, might find some suspicion directed toward him while walking innocently through an American airport? We must acknowledge that some individual experiences are so profound in nature that discrimination is only a natural by-product. In my previous work life we used to say that one “Oh Shit!” could wipe out twenty “at-a-boys.” We are not advocating discrimination – only acknowledging the reality of human behavior based on experience. It strikes this old man that some people of Arab descent should understand the cause of what they perceive to be unjust discrimination. Everyone needs time to cool off after an event of mass destruction.
With economic despair raging in the working class families of our North American neighbors in Mexico we see an astonishing increase in illegal immigration to the United States. People who value their families risk their lives to secretly enter the United States – hoping for a job scooping pig eyeballs at a pork slaughterhouse – hoping to send money back home. Well, that is one perspective. Another perspective defines all illegal immigrants as hardened criminals, coming to the United States to undermine our traditional way of life. Are all immigrants criminals, is the word ‘immigrant’ synonymous with ‘criminal’? Probably not, but distortions in the conservative media make the case. Distorted or not – the information is assimilated into the public conscience as valid experience with which to make future judgments.
Hispanic people have immigrated to the United States for as long as there has been land to cross. Generations of Hispanic people populate this country like generations of Italians, Germans, French, English, Asian, African, and even a few from Australia – but we call the Australians movie actors – so they are okay. The United States is the definition of cosmopolitan. The community where I live has several generations of Hispanics. No one blinks an eye when they take their clothes off in the YMCA locker room. They sit on local social service boards, prosper with their own business, play softball in the summer leagues, and we have generally not noticed that they are somehow different than regular Americans.
Not until recently. Something has changed. Several things have changed. Life in Mexico has become more difficult – more dangerous. Drug Cartels have more fire power than the government. Good jobs in Mexico are scarce. Industry, like meat packing plants in the United States have intentionally targeted immigrants as a cheap source of labor with no Union problems. The result is a large group of non-English speaking people inundating communities. The burdens on local health care, education, transportation, housing, and an influx of low-level crime and domestic violence, and increased abuse of alcohol and drugs – all conspire to promote discriminatory profiling of the Hispanic population. This is not contrived discrimination – these are real problems.
It seems to this old man that the problem will not be resolved by punishing the Hispanics. It seems this problem has other roots. I am certain of this – my Hispanic friends whose families have been in the United States as long as my family are being targeted for problems not of their making.
Now to the serious issue facing America – what about the profiling of my Pit Bull?