Are You a Racial Profiler?

 

I confess, when I read that some guy named Anthony Scaramucci was suspected of shady business with the Russians, I thought the worst. Yes, I am a racial profiler.

I wonder whether the same instinct might have betrayed those three journalists who had to resign from CNN after producing a flawed story about the Trump transition advisor (with an Italian-sounding name) and the head of a Russian investment fund.

They would never admit it, of course. Nobody wants to admit they’re guilty of racial profiling. But I bet most of us are secret profilers.

Some experience, something we read, something somebody told us, especially during our formative years, skews our perceptions of others as we go through life.

That’s why some of us swear by “German engineering,” or shun Chinese patties, or hire Jewish lawyers and Asian accountants… You know what I mean.

I don’t recall meeting any Muslims. But I have preconceptions about them. And I wouldn’t willingly live in a Muslim neighborhood. Yes, I know, that’s shameful. But we are all subject to unreasonable fears, aren’t we?

I read once that, to survive, mankind learns from experience. The example provided was about a prehistoric guy who goes down to the river and sees some strange looking tracks. Then a tiger chases him and he has to flee for his life. The next time he sees those tracks, he doesn’t wait for the tiger to appear. He’s out of there in a flash.

But the tracks might not have had anything to do with the tiger. Assuming that events are connected just because one follows another is a logical fallacy (known as post hoc ergo propter hoc). There was a time when some folks believed the shaking of the trees caused the wind to blow, for example.

And we learn not just from our own experiences but also from what others experience. And what others tell us. I suspect that’s one reason we fall into the trap of racial profiling.

Growing up in Jamaica, I don’t have biased perceptions based on the color of someone’s skin. In that diverse culture, you quickly learn that complexion is not a reliable predictor of an individual’s personality or behavior.

But in parts of the world where darker skin is rare, you might understand why bizarre notions about skin color still exist.

I can only hope that as the world evolves, we will shed our primitive instincts and learn to rely on reason.

If we teach ourselves to seek logical conclusions by examining the existing evidence, we will become better human beings. We will find it easier to “put a little love in our hearts” for our fellow humans – instead of suspicion and dread.

And, as Dolly Parton famously sang, the world will be a better place.

The CNN debacle

The post hoc fallacy

Put a Little Love in Your Heart

gwgraeme

I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for Jamaicans.com

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