There has been a question bantered around in the media about whether George Zimmerman racially profiled Trayvon Martin. Having been in law enforcement for twenty-five years, I can tell you with certainty that he did. There had been reports in that neighborhood of young black men breaking into houses. Mr. Zimmerman saw a young black man (Martin) that he did not know walking around the neighborhood. He fit the profile of the people who were breaking into houses, and that was what made Zimmerman suspicious of him. Seventy-three year-old white women do not arouse the same suspicion as young black males when young black males are the ones reported to be breaking into houses. If an officer gets a call of a bank having been robbed, and the robber fled the scene in a red Pontiac Grand Am, a green Volkswagen Beetle is not going to attract the same attention as a red Pontiac Grand Am.
In my novel, In The Sticks, I make my feelings of the absurdity of judging people by the color of their skin very clear. But to ignore the color of the skin as a basic physical identifier is just as absurd. It would be like ignoring how tall a person is, or how much they weigh, or the color of their hair, or if they are male or female.
I was once accused of racially profiling. It was 02:00 on an unlighted two-lane blacktop about ten years ago. I saw a car coming at me. When I turned on my radar I got a reading of seventy-five miles an hour in a fifty-five mile an hour zone. I turned around and pulled the car over. The driver was a young African-American man from Chicago. After I explained why I had stopped him, the first thing he said was, “The only reason you stopped me is because I’m black.” I almost laughed because I thought he was joking. It became clear immediately that he was not. So I asked him how I could know he was black since it was dark and all I could see were his headlights. He thought about it for a second and said, “I went through a town about thirty minutes ago and those cops called you and told you I was coming.” I went back to my squad car and wrote him a citation for the full twenty over the speed limit. Again I have explained in my novel why officers can’t give a break in that situation. At first I thought he was just trying to intimidate me to get out of a ticket. Now, I think he actually believed what he said.
I’m not black and I can’t begin to know what it is like and don’t pretend too, but I can’t believe blaming everything on racism solves anything.