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Profiling Trayvon Martin
By Ronald W. Hull   

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Based on the responses I received for my poem, “Profiling,” the encouragement from Uriah J. Fields, and my own experiences with profiling when being accompanied by well-educated and ordinary citizens of African American, Muslim, and South East Asian ethnic backgrounds, I decided to post my experiences with profiling.

I might also add that during my trip around the world in early 1977, with my brand-new bicentennial passport, a time of great turmoil and martial law in three of the countries that I visited, I received two-week visas on the spot, and was often ushered to the front of the line simply because I was an American.

Do we offer the same courtesy to travelers spending their money in our country? To students paying high tuition for an American education?

Trayvon Martin was clearly profiled by George Zimmerman.  Zimmerman made a serious mistake and shouldn't have been carrying a firearm.  I believe that he is sincere in his apology for his misconception that has ended in his indictment and prosecution for a crime.  He now has to face those charges because he profiled someone and acted upon it.


While I grew up in a very bad neighborhood between second and sixth grades, when our babysitter was a teenage girl while my mother worked and I got in trouble with the police, there were no blacks to pick on.  There were bullies, and I always tried to protect the underdog. My father went to a all-black grade school in central Wisconsin where my grandmother was a schoolmarm. I've never heard him speak of black people in a bad way, although his truck driving took him to the South side of Chicago where he often had to stay in a very bad neighborhood overnight.  He purposely drove us through Chicago on city streets on a very hot August afternoon one time on our way to visit relatives in Indiana.  Everyone was on the street because it was so hot.  There were little or no trees and a lot of big, shiny Cadillacs.  I asked my father why these poor people had such nice cars.  He replied that these people could only rent and couldn't buy houses.  They could buy cars with their money, and did. I didn't encounter black people, personally until college, but never felt it necessary to pick on anyone except Roman Catholics for their silly behavior like eating fish on Fridays.  My freshman year, our black football players were banned from the local college hangout, so we boycotted the place for two years.  In my senior year, I remember giving five Ethiopian students a free ride out to the same hangout that had been boycotted.  They had a great time that night. In college I was fully into the civil rights movement and have found that many of my black friends have been discriminated against merely by being black.


While driving, I have been stopped many times, mostly for speeding. However, the unnecessary, un-ticketed stops were clearly profiling.


I was stopped by a Native American county mountie in south-central Wisconsin for speeding. My Pakistani graduate student passenger, Mahfouz, remarked angrily, " Why would an Indian stop an American like you -- disgraceful."


While taking a graduate student from Bangladesh to pick up his future bride at Kennedy Airport, we were pulled over on the New Jersey Turnpike. The state patrolman walked to the passenger-side and thoroughly questioned Raj. Never questioned me, the driver.


After driving to Falcon Lake in South Texas on the Rio Grande, my girlfriend Jeanie and I drove to the lookout at Falcon Dam. On the way back, we were stopped at the US border and the agents thoroughly questioned Jeanie, who happens to be black and born in Houston. They didn't ask me, the driver, a single question.


One-time Jeanie and I went to the beach at Freeport Texas. I had gin and tonics all afternoon. A local cop went by several times and eyed us. When I drove into Freeport headed home that afternoon, that cop stopped me. When I struggled with my paralyzed hands to get my billfold out behind the car and he saw that I was paralyzed, he told me not to change lanes without signaling and let me go, even though I was probably legally drunk.


Jeanie and I went to Waco one time where she went to high school, her mother went to high school, and her great uncle lived. On the return trip to Houston, Jeanie was pulled over and I wasn't wearing a seatbelt. Her car insurance wasn't up-to-date. But when her 93-year-old great aunt (widow of the Archbishop of a prominent black church) woke up in the backseat, the cop immediately told Jeanie to get her insurance updated and told us to continue on.


Beh was stopped three times driving me between Houston and McAllen. The last time was in a speed trap by a white officer in that small black community that had to use the speed trap to fund its town's government -- no tax base. The speed trap has since been shut down and the town incorporated into the larger County but the fact remains that Beh was profiled and not driving anywhere near the 85 mph she was charged and threatened with.


The white president of Energy Engineering Associates, proud of his new STS Cadillac, offered to pick up our university president and budget director (both black), and me and take us to meetings in Austin after our flight there from Houston. While he was giving Dr. Spearman a tour of the Hispanic side of downtown Austin, we were profiled and stopped. My friend was quite embarrassed to find that both his license plate and insurance were out of date. When he promised to correct the minor oversights, we were told we could go on our way. My friend was mightily embarrassed by the incident, but I'm sure that Dr. Spearman, who took it with his usual good nature, was fully aware of what was going on.


My wealthy and educated black friends told me that they had to caution their sons how to act, how to dress, and how to avoid confrontation with police. Some even went so far as to not let them drive their expensive cars because they knew they would be picked up if seen driving them.


Even our president has been profiled by those who have a racial agenda. Obama's mother was a adventurous young woman who married a brilliant African Harvard student and had a son that was raised by her parents after she died. To label him black and to pile all the trials and tribulations of history going back to the Constitution which gives the founding fathers the right to vote their three fourths human property and doesn't give their women the right to vote at all, is racist and unfounded. Obama is half American white and half African black. That makes him like so many other Americans and that is why he was elected. I'll stand by my statement that he will go down in history as one of the greatest presidents since Abraham Lincoln. Like Abraham Lincoln and FDR (rich but paralyzed like me) his presidency is filled with controversy and some fool, given the right to carry a gun, may shoot him over some fool belief, but he deserves a fair understanding like Lincoln did after he had to tear the country apart before it could be put back together.



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