Saturday, April 14, 2012

Criminal Profiling Topic of the Day: For God's Sake, For All our Sakes, Stop Overplaying the Race Card

(Blogs and Websites who want to encourage people of all races to care for each other, to raise their children with understanding and love for all, to teach them to be good citizens, and to keep them as safe as possible - feel free to repost this article on your site as long as it is the full article and there is a link back to The Daily Profiler and the links included within remain operable)

I woke up this morning to this article in USA today and it just really ticked me off. As everyone knows, I have spent a great deal of the last weeks doing commentary on the Trayvon Martin case, trying to keep focus on the evidence and not jump to conclusions on guilt. I urged people to remain calm when analyzing the case, to realize that we do not yet know all the facts. We do not know if Zimmerman is a racist or racially profiled Trayvon. What I concluded was that Zimmerman clearly profiled a young man as "up to no good" when had no proof of that as Trayvon was not in the act of committing a crime. It appears Zimmerman continued to pursue Trayvon against police dispatcher advice. Zimmerman moved aggressively towards Trayvon while carrying a firearm. If at that point, a fight ensued, regardless of who started it, Trayvon would be the one standing his ground and Zimmerman has no right to pull a gun out and shoot a man because he is losing a fistfight. Only if Zimmerman turned away from Trayvon and walked away from him, was followed and assaulted, would Zimmerman's claim of self-defense be valid.

But, now to what has gotten my goat this morning. Here are some statements from this article that pissed me off.

      Years before the killing of Trayvon Martin grabbed the nation’s attention, the teen’s father warned him that his race could make him a target of violence.

       The advice Tracy Martin gave his black son, that people veiled by racism and prejudices might see him as suspicious or violent, is a common and continuous warning in many black families, parents and experts say. In the aftermath of Trayvon’s death, more families are having “the talk,” teaching sons to be aware of their race, avoid confrontations with authority figures, and to remain calm in situations even if their rights are violated.

      “I’ve always let him know we as African Americans get stereotyped,” Tracy Martin, Trayvon’s father told USA TODAY three weeks after his son’s death. “I told him that society is cruel.”

and these statements from others to back up Mr. Martin's comments:

Reggie Bridges, a father of two young black boys, sees the Trayvon Martin case as an example of the type of racial profiling he has warned his sons about for years.
“You stand out from the norm,” Bridges, of Silver Spring, Md., said he often tells his children. “I try to heighten their awareness of what’s going on in the world.”

Dionne Bensonsmith, 40, of Claremont, Calif., started talking to her first son, Jonah, now 8, about race when he was 5 and 6. The youngster had already started saying “all police aren’t your friends” and pointing out that officers stopped a lot of black people in their small Iowa city, she said.
“I had the talk of how police target people around race,” said Bensonsmith, a professor at Scripps College. “I said if that ever happens to you, you have to remain respectful, you have to remain very calm.”

She and many parents see “the talk” as evolving lessons on racial consciousness that will cover more topics as children grow. But there are challenges to teaching kids to live within racial injustices.

“It’s really heartbreaking,” said Bensonsmith, who also has another son, Akim Shklyaro, 2. “Sometimes I get really pissed off. Sometimes I don’t want to do it. I feel like I’m crushing some sort of potential in him.”

And, finally, this statement from a white parent of biracial children:

When Steve Baker, who is white, decided to talk to his two half-black sons, now 25 and 20, he admits he struggled to understand their place in society. He relied on his black wife, Pamela, and friends he made through an interracial family group to learn about what his sons may encounter.

“There are certainly instances where they were identified by simply what they look like and perceived as a threat and ran into negative behavior based on that,” said Baker, a university administrator who lives in Minneapolis. “There’s real danger for young men of color in our society. … As a white person, I didn’t grow up having to think about that.”

Okay. I guess I completely failed my two biracial children and my one black son. I never gave them the race talk. I never "relied" on my black husband to lecture my children on the realities of being nonwhite in America and I think he forgot to get around to giving them that speech. Neither of us bothered to warn our children about all the racism that was coming their way, of the racial profiling they were going to experience, of the negative encounters with police that were going to be unavoidable. We failed to prepare them at all.

Guess what? They never experienced any major racism nor have they had bad encounters with the police. They grew up with friends of all races and cultural backgrounds and dated people of all races as did, it seems, many of their friends. If they encountered racism, they understood that some people have issues; they didn't live with a chip on their shoulder assuming everyone was judging them based on race. And they didn't see everything around them as race based. Maybe they got that from me.

I once was driving across the Canadian border with my kids (no husband with me) and the border guard looked in my car and seeing nonwhite children, asked me, "Are they yours?" I gave him a mock shocked look and said, "Oh my God, I always thought they were." He cracked up and rolled his eyes and waved me through. I could have gotten mad over pretty much nothing. Was he accusing me of ferrying illegals into the country? I guess I could have looked at it that way. I could have gotten mad that just because my children weren't white, he was making assumptions that they couldn't be mine and that I was committing a crime. I could have become enraged at "racial profiling." I could have started border marches with other white parents with children of color to end racism from the border patrol. Oh, please, it was just a guy who profiled a situation that he could have been right about and I was not so sensitive I couldn't recognize that.

Likewise, at the park, when occasionally people of all colors asked me when if I was babysitting those three kids with me. I didn't get mad; I just said they were my kids and we had a nice conversation.

Once a church lady wouldn't let my black son out the door in spite of the fact he kept insisting that the approaching white lady was really his mother. We had a good laugh about that at the dinner table later with us replaying the incident, "But that is my mother! Please let me go! Let me go!!!". I didn't give him a speech about how horrible the woman was and how he was going to have to suffer forever because his mother was of a different race than him.

If everyone would stop overplaying the race card when it is unnecessary, we could get rid of a lot of racism from people of all backgrounds. Just because someone is ignorant of the fact Jamaica is not in Africa, does not mean they are a racist. Just because someone thinks country music is redneck and rap music is ghetto doesn't mean they are racist. Being overly sensitive about every designation and choice of label makes you a fanatic.

Finally, I did do what every parent should do with their children. I gave them lectures about their behavior and how society would perceive them. I taught them dressing like thugs would get them profiled as thugs in all neighborhoods and by all police officers regardless of the profiler's racial background. I taught my daughter that dressing like a ho would get her called a ho by all races and by both sexes. I told them them they had a responsibility to follow safety rules if and when the police stopped them because the police were scared of everyone they stopped because anyone could pull a weapon out in a flash and kill them. I taught them how using polite language and not reacting with nasty language to any situation would prevent misconceptions and bad altercations from occurring. In other words, I taught my children that they, yes, they had a responsibility to look and act like upstanding ladies and gentlemen when they went out of their homes and moved among other citizens. It is something all parents should teach their children regardless of their own race or their children's races.

I don't know exactly how Trayvon Martin was acting the evening he was profiled by George Zimmerman. I don't know if he was walking like a thug or talking like a thug. I am not saying that Trayvon deserves anything that happened to him (unless he truly attacked George Zimmerman from behind). What Zimmerman did in pursuing Trayvon was wrong since he was not a police officer and it was not his duty to approach anyone who was not in the act of committing a crime. But, hoodie or no hoodie, the  perception people will get of your son or daughter,  black or white or Asian or whatever, is the image he or she projects to others when in public. I really don't care if Trayvon was sporting a gold grill on his teeth and acting gangsta on his Facebook page; I don't care if he tweeted questionable crap to his friends. But, if he took that attitude and presentation to the streets, then that is what people on the streets see. Maybe some folks will only see a kid being a kid but others will see exactly what the presentation presents; a thug they should be wary of and race will have little to do with it.

When children leave the house, they should be dressed and act in a manner that does not bring suspicion or disrespect on them. This is a simple rule. We all have to watch our behavior and conduct in public locations. I don't know the people out there or what might upset them, so upstanding behavior is the requirement and one should have respect for whatever local culture one is in. My daughter and I wore hijab in Egypt and covered our arms and legs. We had no problems. We didn't run around half naked and then whine we were harassed. Conversely, wearing a burqa in America makes people here very uncomfortable and you can't blame Americans for not feeling warm and fuzzy when they see a woman dressed in such an attire. You don't walk into a bar in the south and tell them they are backwards and that the north is a much better place if you don't want to start a brawl. You should never say, "You people," if you don't want to draw a line between you and whomever you are conversing with. Commonsense, respect for others, and and not being a self-centered, arrogant fool make the world safer for everyone.

Parents should give their children "the talk," but they shouldn't give them the "race talk" unless they want their children to view the world as "us" and "them" and continue this whole foolish "people just can't get along" type of thinking.

What all children need to learn from their parents is that "we" need to do our part in caring for each other and there is no other group than "we."

Criminal Profiler Pat Brown

My new mystery novel, Only the Truth with African-American protagonist, Sweet Billy Ray, is now available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble. and Smashwords for just $2.99. If you are tired of all the talk about racial problems, Only the Truth is a story of love, faith, and compassion and nothing to do with racial problems at all; just a man, a simple and lonely man, who loves his girl, Charlene (who just happens to be white). But, Charlene, the mysterious drifter he has lived with and loved for two years, has just gone and shot the neighbor and he doesn't know what he to do about her. Love her still? Run like hell? Only the Truth is the story of a man who is willing to search for truth, only the truth, whether it helps him save his lady from a death sentence or sets him free from her spell.