Thursday, July 18, 2013

Racial profiling...a very common mistake.

Recently I read about George Zimmerman's trial and reactions to his acquittal from murder charges for killing Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old African American high school student. This incident of fatal shooting took place on February 26 2012, in Sanford, Florida, USA. The trial attracted lot of media attention and verdict to acquit Zimmerman resulted in lot of protests and controversy, all this happened because many believe there is a racial aspect involved in this case. Many people think that Zimmerman got suspicious about Martin because of his skin color which subsequently resulted in unfortunate incident of fatal shooting, I won't feel surprised if this is true (but I am sure it will be impossible to prove it).

Racial profiling (I am using this as a general term where we try to label certain group with certain characteristics) is very common mistake many of us do consciously or unconsciously, I see that happening around me all the time. Actually issue of racial profiling is more complicated and deep than it looks. I am not going to go into any historical accounts or going to produce any actual data (sometimes numbers don't give the actual picture) but want to say something based on my own personal experience in US as well as in India. In India even though there is no issue of race but there it is about caste, in both cases the mindset is same, one race or caste feels superior to other.

When I was in India I heard many things like how Muslims are not as patriotic as Hindus or how particular caste doesn't deserve to be doing some white collar job or how people from some particular caste are not as intelligent (or brave or clean or honest one can use any criteria here) compared to people from so called upper caste (or their own caste)...and many things like this, the list can become very long if I try to mention each and every thing, people still say these things very casually without any regret or guilt. I also didn't feel any strange when I heard these things as a kid as this was discussed very openly and without any reservations, and very often as a kid when you here these things again and again many times you start thinking that may be they are true. Some times there are few incidents which makes you to think that may be whatever people around you are saying about others is true (mostly people in these groups belong to same caste, religion and race). So we don't even understand when this habit of racial profiling, that is judging people based on their religion, race, caste, etc. is incorporated in our mindset. Even when I came in US I found that there are very subtle currents of prejudice against some races. It's not very open here but one can feel that it's there. There are some areas in every city or town which are considered as good neighborhood and some are bad, one can easily look at ethnic groups living in those areas and understand that there is strong racial connection to this labeling. Actually crime rate and other things which make some areas less safer than others is because of economical condition of people living in those areas not because of their race or skin color, but people don't want to analyze the real problem they just see the symptoms and form their opinion.

Many times because of some historical social aspects (like years of suppression and negligence) people from certain caste (in India) or race (in US and other countries) are deprived of good education and equal opportunities therefore they struggle economically which can sometimes lead to high crime rate, but to blame it on their caste or race is totally unfair and wrong. Criminals are found in every society and ethnic groups, there is no logic behind labeling particular race or caste more criminal than other. But in reality no one wants to think about these problems so seriously, most take easier path of racial profiling, they label certain races or castes as good, intelligent and some as criminals, not so intelligent or incompetent (many people do the same thing about gender also). Most of these people pass this flawed thinking to their kids, so even before kids know world outside their home they are prejudiced with which people are good and which are bad, who are their own people (same caste, religion, race or nationality) and who are others, so this cycle continues.

I guess we all do some kind of racial profiling at some stage, some accept and some don't, worst things is that some don't even see anything wrong in doing this. I will be lying if I say that I have not done it myself and I am not at all proud of those instances where I might have done this intentionally or unintentionally. Society and our inner circle (friends and relatives) play a very big role in this, many times we tend to follow their thinking, but when I saw world with my own eyes without any prejudice then I realized how wrong I was in judging people based on their caste, religion or race, that was one of the most important movements of my life when I lets that habit for good. We have progressed so much in science and technology, we know many things about which our ancestors had no clue, but even today I see that racial profiling is very common, people judge others based on their nationality, religion or race. Many stand up comedians love to make fun of people from particular race or nationality and they are very popular, I know that one should not take these things seriously, they are only for entertainment purpose but still I don't like these shows when they concentrate too much on negative aspect of any person or community.

We all know that racial profiling is wrong, we don't like it when some one does it to us, but somehow many of us don't see anything wrong in doing it knowingly or unknowingly to others. Most of the time people do this without having proper knowledge about that race, religion or country. Every culture is different, they all have some good and may be some bad aspects, no one is perfect, we all are humans with good and bad qualities. Our skin color, nationality or race is just one part of our personality, we are much more than that so we should stop judging each other based on color, religion or anything else, we all are humans and let's treat each other as humans.

Thanks for reading and please share your views about this topic. 

(Copyright: Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing)

1. After Zimmerman verdict, can nation heal racial rift?
2. Shooting of Trayvon Martin
3. A Perspective On George Zimmerman That Every Person Should Hear

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