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Racial Profiling

Racial profiling is a tricky term, and surprisingly (or maybe not) few seem to understand what it is and what it is not.

If I see a black guy walking down the street, and because he is black I suspect he has, is about to, or is considering committing a crime based on his blackness, that is racial profiling, and that is not right.

On the other hand…

If I live in a gated neighborhood where I know no black people live, and I see a black guy walking down the street and suspect he might be up to no good, that isn’t racial profiling at all, at least not how it is normally meant. One might simply replace this persons blackness with the fact that I see a person driving down the street in a pickup truck in a neighborhood where I know no pickup trucks “live”.

In case this distinction isn’t clear enough, picking out a characteristic that is out of place in a particular area, isn’t racial profiling, it’s smart.

Obviously this is in regards to the whole Zimmerman thing. I don’ really care whether or not he is a raging racist, or why he did what he did, or whether or not he was justified in doing it. I care about the characterization that picking out a black person in an area where there are no black people and thinking that is odd is somehow wrong to do, it isn’t. Seeing an expensive car in a “bad part of town” might also be a tip off that something out of the ordinary might be going on, it could certainly warrant a closer look. Today I came home and my front door was open, that was certainly not how I left it. This observation that something was out of place rightly put me on guard. Upon entering the house, I found that a youngish (maybe 10) kid had gone inside. He apparently was lost and went in trying to find a phone. The point is that my noticing something out of the ordinary tipped me off that there was probably something out of the ordinary taking place. Could have been a thief had broken in, or maybe I had just not shut it tightly on my way out, but it doesn’t really matter.

Taking note of an abnormality is an appropriate response to the abnormal, it isn’t a hate crime.

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