After the bombs went off in Boston, but before the two men were caught, the news media made it clear that the FBI was looking for young men of color as suspects. I have a friend who is light-skinned, married to a man from India and they have two wonderful sons with dark eyes, hair and skin. These two young men are exceptional in many ways; highly intelligent with sensitive hearts who love Christ. My friend fearfully lamented on Facebook that the FBI was racially profiling, and that her boys would fit the description perfectly if they had been in Boston that day.
I sat back in my chair and considered this. My first inclination was to reject the notion, I know these boys and it’s so obvious that they don’t fit that mold….but the FBI doesn’t know them. Then I thought about it in a different context, what if they were searching for tall redheads with light skin and eyes? My heart sank. I cannot imagine what it must feel like to worry about your children because of the way they look. Believe me, this wasn’t the first time she has felt this fear and frustration; her sons risk racial profiling all the time, while walking in the neighborhood or driving around town.
I wanted to have an answer. None came. My only response to her was, “How can we do this better?” Obviously there is no simple fix, but I believe my friend knew that I was sitting with her (miles away) in her anguish, willing to ask the question. I truly desire to help her find the answer, to help this world feel safer for all, not just the majority. We didn’t come up with anything that day and now we all know that two young men who fit that description were at fault for killing and terrifying many in Boston. This fact probably doesn’t help my friend at all.
Often when I am faced with an injustice my inclination is to gloss over it with generations-old ideals, or to remain ignorant to the details due to lack of time and passion. Instead of allowing my defense mechanisms to automatically rise up and iron out any concerns, what if I approached the situation with an open mind, a willingness to hear, and a simple question: How can we do this better? What if we all did this?
I guess this really is tricky because honestly, it can’t be expected that the media or anyone else will withhold information that could help lead authorities to the perpetrator of a crime. The only thing we can do is not assume and only give descriptions based on reasonable evidence that someone of that description did indeed commit the crime. Unfortunately that does sometimes draw innocent people under suspicion.