Age has found me becoming increasingly aware of several aspects of my character. Of these, two that stand forth are my growing awareness and sensitivity to family, and my strengthening adherence to moral principle. Occasionally, these two come into conflict. Take, for instance, this comment recently posted on Facebook by my grandfather:
“Profiling has been in all creatures brains (including humans) since the begining of time. Survival! It’s saved our lives! Only a current Marxist Liberal would say we shouldn’t do it because of political correctness. I could take you down some Seattle streets right now and you’d be experiencing good old PROFILING”
Despite our marked moral and political differences, I do care for my grandpa, and want to believe that he is essentially a decent and caring person who wishes the best rather than the worst for his fellow man. Furthermore, I feel that it is important to state that I do not want to have my ideas forced down anyone else’s throat, and neither would I ever wish to constrain another’s right to form and freely express their own ideas. However, faced with such a comment, I find myself compelled to author some sort of response, if only to frame (and perhaps quell) my own revulsion at seeing such ignorance and hatred furthered in this modern world, especially by a member of my own family.
Firstly, the issue of Profiling. Obviously, he has confused some of the concepts of Evolutionary Psychology with the practice of Racial Profiling. Neither Neuroanthropology nor modern Criminal Psychology can be said to be exact empirical sciences; the muddling of the two can only serve to cloud the issue. To whit, Evolutionary Psychology views human nature as a universal set of evolved psychological adaptations to recurring problems in the ancestral environment, while Racial Profiling is the usage by law enforcement of an individual’s race or ethnicity as a factor in articulating reasonable suspicion to stop, question or arrest. The former applies to the idea that there may be some forms of innate subconscious fear and/or recognition hard-wired into our brains; the latter applies to active concious judgments based upon biased comprehension. I cannot and will not equate the notion of a subconcious early-childhood ability to discern snake-shapes within cryptic surroundings with an active biased judgement of other human beings based soley upon race or ethnicity.
Secondly, the issue of Survival. The notion that human beings have relied upon blatant racism “since the beginning of time” to assure their survival is pedantic at least, outrageous at best, and utterly dangerous at worst. Even if one could find some merit in the idea, wouldn’t the vast non-caucasian majority on the globe tend to suggest that we’re not the ones being set up to survive?
Thirdly, the issue of Marxist Liberalism. This is one of those ridiculous Tea Party portmanteaus that only holds traction amongst those whom I dub “The Illiterati”. The very notion is a nonsensical oxymoron; Marxism is essentially opposed to liberal democracy, which it sees as the worst sort of bourgeois dictatorship. In the context of my grandpa’s quote, I must assume that by “current Marxist Liberal” he is actually referring to people like myself, ie., folks who believe in the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution which guarantees the right to be safe from unreasonable search and seizure without probable cause and the Fourteenth Amendment which requires that all citizens be treated equally under the law.
Fourthly, the issue of Political Correctness. Equal rights, guaranteed freedoms, and social justice are sacred and above political ideology, and should never be confined to definitions falling withing the ranges of what is correct or not correct. The ACLU puts it this way:
“Discrimination based on race, ethnicity, religion, nationality or on any other particular identity undermines the basic human rights and freedoms to which every person is entitled.”
I’ve written on this topic before; given a population where all citizens are presumed equal, any action that dimishes the rights of any single individual diminishes the rights of all other individuals. I don’t rail against racial profiling because of some perceived “political incorrectness”; I rail against it because it is fundamentally wrong, because it reinforces base racism, and only serves to pit the entitled oligarchy against those who are least able to defend their rights and diginity.
Fifthly, the (apparently dangerous and segregated) streets of Seattle. The typical gentrified American city, compared to a staggering majority of other locations around the globe, is a veritable social paradise. Anyone who feels that they are conciously or subconciously engaging in Racial Profiling in such an environment is actually doing nothing more than succumbing to fear, ignorance, and prejudice on a level that can only serve to dehumanize both Profiler and Profilee alike. I feared more for my own safety when Henry Louis Gates Jr. was arrested then I ever have while walking along any ethnically-diverse city street at night.
I have been exposed from an early age to Third World conditions in Central America, and have lived and worked abroad for several years in locales where the priviledges of my white middle-class male North-American upbringing have been largely ignored and often derided. Contrasted with these experiences, it is my belief that the only profiling commonly occuring within the typical gentrified Pacific Northwest community is that practiced by racist police forces and fearful Caucasians.
I have been subject to racial and ethnic profiling myself on many occasions, living in parts of the world where my name and skin color have placed me in the minority. Discrimination and prejudice come in many shades other than blatant racist hatred. For all that, whether in the West Indies, Central America, Seattle, or Manhattan, I have never encountered a non-caucasian human who fundamentally felt that I was some sort of inferior animal worthy of suspicion or derision merely on account of my race. Full disclosure time: I am an educated blonde male middle-class Canadian/American Caucasian with an obviously ethnic Russian name…
Now, I understand that many people have a very limited first-hand world-view, and it’s not my place to force their comprehension. Furthermore, I will defend the right of the entitled white American middle-class to refrain from travelling to or living in any other country or culture. Generations of Americans fought and died to protect isolationism and xenophobia, and the fruits of their sacrifice ought to be protected and enjoyed by those entitled middle-class Caucasians who freely wish to. See? I can profile too…
We have collectively conqured the elements and risen as masters of our Earthly domain. There remains no further outward impediment to equal rights, justice, and peace for all. The only enemies mankind has left are those of its own creation.