Critics of the newly enacted Arizona immigration law, including the president himself, relentlessly criticize it for the racial profiling they fear it may provoke. One needs only to watch Terry Gilliam's 1985 masterpiece “Brazil” to get a taste of the Orwellian scenarios: hapless Hispanic moms out for ice cream, finding themselves surrounded by armored cars, then strip-searched and strait-jacketed by hooded SWAT teams, tasered and imprisoned before hauled in cattle cars back to Mexico. All that's missing are the so-called information-retrieval charges.
The fact that Mexican authorities treat illegal immigrants caught without papers in their country similarly isn't the point. What's really happening is that by so generally stereotyping the supporters of the law the critics are guilty of the very profiling they profess to loathe.
Profiling is neither a distinctly negative process nor always a manifestly racial one — large and small groups of people are profiled constantly to fit whatever ideology, status or character the profiler wishes to impose upon them. If a police department issues an all-points bulletin for a person fitting certain physical and mental characteristics, it is using physical and psychological profiling to narrow the list of suspects. This is not inherently wrong when it is done based on fact or evidence and not presumption.
Profiling can have positive effects in areas such as crime fighting, but when applied in a hysterical or slipshod manner all forms become not-so-subtle bigotry that is as sinister as assuming guilt by race. The Arizona law speaks specifically against racially profiling Mexicans going about their daily business in its mirror of current but unenforced federal laws, but that fact has been lost on the whiners and wailers, many of whom admit to not having read the dang thing before commenting on it.
The Catholic Church's handling of the abuse crisis provoked cries of condemnation against all priests and bishops, not just the 3 percent guilty in the past of crimes against young people. The anti-church shrill uses vocational and predictive profiling to claim these leaders are likely to commit these acts again in the future simply because of their status as priests. Anyone who declares that all are and will be guilty because of the horrible acts of a few possesses a deformed mentality akin to a kill-them-all-let God sort them-out bumper sticker. It's no better than their hatred of tactics they warn will be used to round up Mexicans — blatant hypocrisy in action.
Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and others who are threatened by the tea party and disparage the members as redneck, violence-prone, race-baiting Republicans display some of the most virulent forms of profile-based prejudice, despite the fact that according the Winston Group the actual tea party is about 41 percent Independent and Democratic. No one denies fringe hatemongers exist across the entire political spectrum, even on the edges of a tea party (whose members are to be credited with pushing back the fringe haters and the infiltrators who attempt to foul the movement in the eyes of the media), but these liberal opponents' slamming of a bipartisan, peaceful, political grassroots movement is a tiresome narrative that has no grounding in truth. Some congressional leaders go even further, profiling the tea partiers with labels like “swastika-carriers” and Timothy McVeigh wannabes, especially when the cameras are watching.
Unlike the Democratic-led movements of the past that were born in violent and angry ideologies — Students for a Democratic Society, the Weather Underground, even the original Ku Klux Klan itself, which was formed in 1864 to overthrow Republican supporters of Reconstruction — the tea party is born out of peaceful concerns of fiscal irresponsibility and losses of personal liberties due to big government intrusion. Violence and racial demagoguery within the tea party philosophy are unfounded and unproven. Neither U.S. Rep. John Lewis nor anyone else could prove tea party protestors spit at him intentionally or called him the n-word, despite his and Rep. James Clyburn's attempts to bait the crowd by walking through the middle of them on the day of the health-reform vote. Yet NBC and MSNBC news carried the water of these who were guilty of the very racial profiling they now claim to abhor, reporting the spitting and swearing stories based solely on second-hand anecdotes and hearsay. Apparently honest journalism learned nothing from the Tawana Brawley and the Duke lacrosse incidents.
Numerous examples of profiling run the political gamut. In 2004 Attorney General John Ashcroft was accused of political profiling when it was discovered that 83 percent of all Justice Department corruption investigations and indictments were against Democrats. Last year, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano profiled pro-lifers, military veterans and legal gun purchasers as potential domestic terrorists. Many insist that all Sarah Palin supporters are likely to be brain-damaged morons.
Those who engage in these forms of political, predictive and ideological intolerance are profiling in an equally despicable manner, no different than the way they and the president fear the Phoenix police will act stupidly and bludgeon Arizona moms who fail to produce their papers. It proves that race-baiting, hypocritical profiling and guilty until proven innocent become the mantras of those with no arguments left. S
Dale Brumfield is a payroll services broker and writer who lives in Doswell.
Opinions expressed are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Style Weekly.