Thursday, July 11, 2013
Folks of all shapes and sizes came and went. But when a skinny young Asian man strolled by, it occurred to me how guilty I am of my own version of profiling. If I were doing a commercial for Home Depot or Lowes, for instance, I wouldn't have thought to feature an Asian individual. Rather, I would have chosen a beefy, brawny laborer. The Asian gentleman would star in a technology commercial (phones, computers, or medical technology).
Then I considered why that would be so. I am guilty of categorizing people by ethnicity and color. It is an ugly admission BECAUSE until yesterday, I wasn't even aware I was doing it. Worse, it's based on false premises from the very beginning. Why shouldn't the beefy guy be the computer specialist--and the Asian fellow be a craftsman?
The hero in my current work in progress is of Japanese/Apache background for no particular reason except I sought a more interesting character than the the usual white-anglo-saxon-protestant. Then having chosen an interesting background for my hero, I instantly pigeon-holed him in the appropriate ethnic behavior I envisioned for such a man. Why? I'm ashamed to admit it was sheer laziness. A short-cut to character development.
For a while, I've grappled with this story, wondering why I couldn't seem to come to grips with my hero AND my heroine (which I ALSO pigeon-holed).
In my daily life, I've met thousands of people in all walks of life, of all ethnicities and colors and occupations. And apparently, I have learned nothing, blindly accepting my own assumptions about who and what my fellow men and women were.
It's not enough to pick an individual who stands out and acknowledge their value regardless of their color, if we then profile the rest of their fellows. Why do we categorize folks? Until yesterday, if you had asked me my personal opinions on profiling, I would have vociferously denied doing so. And yet... there was that jarring realization that I was wrong.