Editorial – October 2001 - Week #1

 

An Evangelical Christian Perspective:  Racial Profiling

 

Racial profiling stirs up conflicting feelings in all of us because it is a paradox—it is morally offensive, yet often true.   Bible sets in parallel the conflicting truths found in racial profiling.  The first truth is that it is not fair to punish one person for the sins of another.   One member of a race should not be penalized just because one or many members of his race does evil.

 

Fathers shall not be punished for their sons, nor shall sons be punished for their fathers; everyone shall be punished for his own sin.  You shall not pervert the justice due a foreigner.” (Deuteronomy 24)

 

The second truth is the flip side:  Since we all affect each other for good or evil, we are responsible for the character of our family, our country, our race, and even humanity.

 

“God will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.”  (Exodus 34)

 

In our American emphasis on individual rights, we have often overlooked the truth of corporate responsibility and character.  Among the many Biblical examples of corporate character, the Bible states that the ancient Cretans were “liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” (Titus 1:12)  Is this stereotyping?  Yes!  Even though we hate to admit it, some people come out of the same mold.

 

So it is not unreasonable to question someone’s character based on national origin or ethnicity.   As unfair as it may seem, we all have to take the rap for the sins of our family.   If the tides were turned, and  I were a tourist in Kabul while America terrorists killed 6000 in Afghanistan;  I would expect to be searched, detained and questioned.   Why should I feel indignant if I am profiled?  I simply must show that I am an exception to my newly inherited ethnic profile.   This is the small price I have to pay if my American brothers do evil.

 

But there is a difference between being watchful of corporate character and passing sentence.   To spend additional time searching the bags of Arab tourists should be expected and appreciated by all.  But to remove Arabs from a flight because passengers refuse to fly with them is an outrageous denial of justice.    We have gone from simply watching for corporate character to passing judgment on the innocent.

 

Both the profiler and the one profiled can be guilty of sin.   The profiler can sin by assuming guilt, while the one profiled can sin by becoming embittered.  The Bible deals extensively with the attitude one should have toward being profiled.

 

In all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in teaching, dignified, sound in speech which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us.”  (Titus 2)

 

God does not want the one profiled to try to change the stereotype by demanding rights, demonstrations, violence, etc.   These things only compound animosity between cultures.  God’s way for the innocent to change their inherited profile is by godly behavior.   Christians are called upon to be the change agents in their family line, culture, or ethnicity; so that the corporate character will become a positive one.

 

Unfortunately, television images have produced in us a profile of the Arabs as raging militants.  However, the missionaries I have spoken with report that most Arab people are humble, kind and charitable.  It is a shame that they must take the rap for the sins of a few of their brothers.   But evil can always be overcome by good.

 

Bradford E Winship

Harbor Bible Church

Laurence Harbor, NJ