Terrance Heath

Why Don't We Profile White Guys?

Filed By Terrance Heath | April 26, 2013 2:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: blame brown people, Boston Marathon bombings, profile white guys, racial profiling

After my previous post on profiling in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing, I wasn’t naive enough to think that I’d be done with the subject for a while. But I didn’t expect to be returning to the subject quite so soon. You’d think that after all that’s unfolded — the identification of the suspects, the death of one, and the capture of the other — that maybe we wouldn’t have to go there quite so soon.

Sadly, no.

I shouldn’t be surprised, reall, that conservatives are actually using the bombing to justify profiling, and call for more profiling.

I’m thinking in particular of people like Fox News Host Brian Kilmead.

And then there’s Chris Matthews.

My question for Brian and Chris, based on their remarks, is pretty simple: Why don’t we profile white guys?

Now, there’s an interesting side conversation to be had -- and, in fact, it’s already well underway -- about just how white the Boston bombing suspects are. I fully intend to get to that in another post. But for now, I want to focus on another question.

Events like this never fail to bring out guys like Kilmeade and Matthews, who use the occasion to justify, defend, or recommend more profiling -- specifically, racial or ethnic profiling. For the purpose of this post, I’m defining it as the assumption or criminal activity or intention based on actual or perceived race or ethnicity, but it could extend to religion if guys like Kilmeade and Matthews had their way.

Every time something like this happens, people of color across America say a silent prayer to the universe: “Don’t let it be one of us.” There are variations, from “Please, don’t let it be a black guy” to “Please don’t let it be a Latino,” and even “Please don’t let it be an Arab or Muslim.” But I’m willing to bet that guys like Kilmeade and Matthews never find themselves saying “Please don’t let it be a white guy.”

Why is that?

African-Americans, Latinos, Arab-Americans and other groups find ourselves making these requests of the universe for a very simple reason. We know that in the minds of many White Americans, the actions of one or a few of us will be projected upon all of us, and factored into the on-sight assumptions made about all of us. Further, we know on some level that many of us will be end up paying for the actions of a few of us, as a result.

Whether its being subjected to “stop and frisk” practices like those in New York, or being questioned in a bombing for no other reason than being or appearing to be Arab, some of us will be held suspect for no other reason than the fears projected upon us because of our race or ethnicity. For example, every since 19 Saudi Arabian men affiliated with Al Qaeda attacked the United States on Sept. 11 2001, how many times have we heard someone in the media utter some version of the claim “Muslims attacked us on 9/11″, as a justification for suspecting virtually any Arab American of terrorism until proven innocent?

But why doesn’t it work both ways? Why don’t we hear calls for profiling white men after a mass shooting or an act of right wing terrorism? Why don’t such events cause guys like Kilmeade and Matthews to pray, “Please, don’t let it be a white guy?

Not long ago, I put together a timeline of right-wing violence in America. Take a look a it. Where photographs are available, take a look a the people responsible for the actions on the timeline.

Ask yourself how many times you heard calls for more profiling of white guys after each event. None. Their actions don’t seem to imply anything about white guys in general. They’re “lone wolves,” separated from the pack, whose actions apparently don’t reflect on the rest.

Take a look at some of the guys responsible for the most infamous mass shootings.

Given that the majority of mass shooters are white males, shouldn’t that justify some profiling? No, of course not. When one of these guys shoots up a school, mosque, shopping mall, movie theater, or Unitarian church, it’s an “isolated incident,” and they certainly shouldn’t cause us to assume that all white males are would-be shooters. Of course we shouldn’t dive for cover the next time a white guy walks into a movie theater, or walks into a shopping mall. Even if he looks/acts a little weird.

But why not?

Why don’t we profile white guys? As I searched my blog archives for old posts on the subject, I came across a pretty good explanation, written by Eugene Robinson, around the time that conservatives were raising a stink over Sonia Sotomayor’s suggestion that the Supreme Court could use a “wise Latina.”

The only real suspense in the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor is whether the Republican Party will persist in tying its fortunes to an anachronistic claim of white male exceptionalism and privilege.

Republicans' outrage, both real and feigned, at Sotomayor's musings about how her identity as a “wise Latina” might affect her judicial decisions is based on a flawed assumption: that whiteness and maleness are not themselves facets of a distinct identity. Being white and male is seen instead as a neutral condition, the natural order of things. Any “identity” -- black, brown, female, gay, whatever -- has to be judged against this supposedly “objective” standard.

That’s why, we don’t profile white guys, no matter how many of them blow things up or go on killing sprees. Not being profile is one of the privileges of being white and male.

White privilege is knowing that even if the bomber turns out to be white, no one will call for whites to be profiled as terrorists as a result, subjected to special screening, or threatened with deportation.

White privilege is knowing that if the bomber turns out to be white, he or she will be viewed as an exception to an otherwise non-white rule, an aberration, an anomaly, and that he or she will be able to join the ranks of pantheon of white people who engage in (or have plotted) politically motivated violence meant to terrorize -- and specifically to kill -- but whose actions result in the assumption of absolutely nothing about white people generally, or white Christians in particular.

So, given the obvious injustice here, should we start profiling white guys? I mean, if we going to profile, why not be equal opportunity, right?

Well, no. I can’t in good conscience demand that someone else experience the same injustice I have. That doesn’t even make moral sense to me. Two wrongs, after all, still don’t make a right.

As I see it, that leaves one option. Instead of “equal opportunity profiling,” we should just extend the privilege of not being profiled to everyone. So, no one is suspected of being a criminal, terrorist, etc., solely based on their race, religion, ethnicity, ect.

Let’s not start profiling white guys. Let’s stop profiling anyone based on race or ethnicity.


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