After George Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin, a narrative quickly emerged that Zimmerman “profiled” Martin, that he considered Martin suspicious merely because of the color of his skin and the fact that he was wearing a hoodie.
Leaving aside the question of whether that narrative is accurate in the particular case of the Zimmerman / Martin incident, it is indisputably true that profiling and judging people based on their race occurs every minute of every day in this country, leading to vastly disparate treatment of individuals.
Those who decry racism are right to do so. It is the root cause of a great deal of unfairness and suffering in the world, it causes strife where there need not be any, and it deprives individuals of liberties, rights, and privileges to which they are entitled.
However, there are three crucial facts about racism that are often ignored or at least unacknowledged by those who fight against it, even though they are also indisputably true:
- In many (but certainly not all) contexts, racism is rational.
- When people are prevented by force of law from behaving in a racist way, their liberty is infringed.
- Although we have chosen as a society to oppose racism (a choice I fully agree with), that fact does not negate either of the other two.