Writing Words With the Tips of My Toes
I usually try to stay out of politics, but with the recent explosion over the Tayvon case, I can’t help but to add in something. Sometimes I hate being an author because I feel like I have to keep my opinions to myself all the time for fear of alienating a good chunk of my fan base. But then I think about all the authors who do spout their opinions, and I sort of just have to run with the idea that if you’re going to judge my entire existence from one opinion, I probably don’t want you as a fan in the first place. I’m not really going to talk about the Trayvon case though. It’s a messy case. I have heard so many things and don’t know what to believe. I personally think the stand-your-ground law is dangerous (and the cases that have been judged with this law have been contradictory and hypocritical), but I also wasn’t there to really judge what happened. In any case, what I want to talk about is profiling and how I think profiling is sometimes okay.
When I was a high schooler in my freshman year, I was playing basketball with a group of black boys. For some reason, they kept calling me a ‘white bitch,’ for no reason at all other than I was playing basketball with them. It wasn’t even in a teasing tone. It was in a very menacing tone. They continually harassed me throughout all of gym class, calling me a ‘white bitch.’ After gym, they followed me out and kept calling me the same thing, harassing me, asking me what I was going to do about it. I tossed the ‘N’ word at them and they left me alone. I had no further contact with them…ever.
Was I in the wrong? Could I have resolved the issue without using the ‘N’ word? I probably could have, but I was 15 at the time. I wanted a quick way out, and I didn’t know any other way out than to toss a racial slur at them, something I knew that would be harmful, just as ‘white bitch’ was to me. To this day I still wonder what I could have done differently, but it got them off my back, it kept them from harassing me.
I have experienced other instances of harassment by groups of black boys at my school. This is what happens when you are the majority race that is a minority in a school where the minorities are the majority, I guess. You get bigoted resentment. I could walk through a group of black guys and hear things like ‘Who does this white girl think she is?’ ‘Why is that white girl walking by us like we ain’t here?’ And so I started profiling groups of black guys as dangerous and bigoted. And I had every right to, especially as a white female.
I hear in the Trayvon case that people are angry because Zimmerman profiled Trayvon. I’m not going to get into the messiness of that because I wasn’t there and so don’t know if Zimmerman was right in profiling Trayvon. I’m not Zimmerman. I’m not Trayvon.
But back then, as a young, white female, I felt I had every right to profile groups of black boys because experience told me they were dangerous–and there were rumors of black gang members in our school, and of course gang problems downtown by black boys. So throughout the rest of my high school years, I avoided groups of black boys because I didn’t want to be hurt. As individuals, they were fine, but as a group, they were completely different.
I don’t know why, either. I don’t attribute their behavior to their skin color–and I didn’t attribute their behavior to their skin color. It was likely a mix of cultural and societal factors. I just happened to note that darker skinned people could be mean.
People profile because it’s an observation gained through personal experience. Profiling =/= racism. I profile all the time at work. Asians do not like to sign up for the Fiat. Black people love to. Whites are half-and-half. Old, white men tend to be both suspicious and rude when signing up for the Fiat. Women are overall polite about declining. When people of Indian descent sign up for the Fiat, they almost always want home improvements, but it’s very difficult to set with them. Mexicans tend to live in single wide mobile homes, so we can’t set for single wides. So when it’s busy at the mall, I tend to avoid calling Asians, Mexicans, white, middle-aged women, and old, white men over because I have to try and get the people most likely to come over when it’s busy, or else I’m going to miss potential appointments. Could I be missing potential appointments from the people that I’m avoiding? Possibly, but when experience tells me they are not likely to come over, I have to pick my battles when there is a rush. My job has told me not to profile, but the people who have told me not to profile have never worked the field.
Now that I am older, I am no longer afraid of groups of black boys because my job has given me a different perspective. I have observed at my job that black people are some of the politest, most respectful people to speak with. They are very spiritual as well where I live, so that probably plays a factor in their friendly and non-judgmental behavior. It is whites that are often rude and nasty. Groups of black boys no longer intimidate me either. In fact, they are very friendly (sometimes flirty) and fun to chat with. Perhaps being outside of school allows them to shed their defenses, I guess, so that they don’t have to put up these walls. Or maybe I wasn’t pretty back then (because I do get compliments a lot now, and I don’t even have to try like I did when I was in high school). I don’t know, but it is groups of white guys that annoy me now because they are loud, rude, and a bit too rambunctious for my liking. They are also the ones most likely to write rude things on the sign-up papers. They are also the ones most likely to say rude things about the Fiat, so it’s not so much that they intimidate me, it’s that they annoy me, so whenever groups of white boys come by, I tend to hold my breath and look away BECAUSE EXPERIENCE TELLS ME THEY ARE OFTEN RUDE. There might be a group of white guys that is polite, but when I don’t want to put up with potentially rude behavior, I don’t want to put up with it. And I know this isn’t true with all groups, but when experience tells me something, experience tells me something.
I don’t know why, okay? I do not attribute anyone’s behavior to a skin color. I attribute it to cultural and societal factors, but I do not think profiling is inherently racist or evil. Now there are some instances where profiling is not okay, like if you’re a teacher and you’ve noted that your alien students are more intelligent than your human students, so you don’t try as hard with your human students. That is when profiling is not okay, when it robs people of amazing opportunities, but when you profile because you want to protect your freaking self, I don’t think we have any right to judge.
I do not think I was in the wrong for profiling groups of black boys back in my high school years. It kept me from being continually hurt. It was a defense mechanism. Now I don’t see them as dangerous anymore because experience, outside of school, tells me they’re really not. In high school, I didn’t have any worldly experience because I only knew life in school and life with my friends, but not much else. But if a victim profiles people who remind him/her of his/her perpetrator, I do not think we have any right to judge because that is a defense mechanism that is very difficult to undo.
I actually job shadowed in a middle school where it was primarily black kids, and while many were troubled, it gave me an inside view as to why they were troubled–not because of skin color but because of family upbringing. I had nothing but anger toward their upbringing and empathy for these kids. I also noted, too, that the stray white kids that were around were not bullied because of their skin color (because experience tells me that the “minority” race is often singled out and bullied). This is a good thing. We are coming across a generation of kids who see skin color but don’t care and do not attribute behavior to skin color. It was a very beautiful thing to see, and I adored the kids and they, for some reason, adored me, even though they didn’t see me a whole lot.
Overall, profiling is not inherently racist. We need to stop acting like it is and stop judging those who profile as a defense mechanism because, guess what? I know black people who profile white people, and I do not blame them. These are people who have had experience dealing with white people, and it wasn’t always positive.