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Viewpoint: Unbiased by proxy

There’s a term out there that many might not be familiar with. It’s called “unbiased by proxy.” Never heard of it? Well, that’s understandable, since we really just made it up, but the concept should be all too familiar.

Basically, it goes like this: Because Mr. Smith is friends with Mr. Jones, who happens to be in a minority group, Mr. Smith is considered not biased toward the minority group as a whole. Make sense? No?

Here’s an example to illustrate the point. In the recent controversial case-making headlines, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman. For those who can’t bring themselves to watch the news, the whole controversy surrounding the incident is unfortunately based more on race than anything else — Martin was black, and Zimmerman was white (actually, he’s half Hispanic, and most people seem to glaze over that fact — but we digress).

Now, this isn’t going to be a discussion about whether Zimmerman acted in self-defense or not, because that’s just a whole ‘nother can of worms. No, we want to focus on one of the tactics the defense is using. Yep, you guessed it. They’re pulling out the “unbiased by proxy” card.

In more than one article, the media reports that Zimmerman’s defense is claiming this wasn’t a racial hate crime at all. Why? Zimmerman’s friends all say he’s a great guy. And hey, guess what? A few of his friends are black. That’s right. The defense is arguing that because Zimmerman has black friends, he’s obviously not racist, and obviously this wasn’t a racially charged incident.

Whether or not that last point is true is another discussion for another time. But the rest of that statement should bother you. The whole point we’re trying to make here is that this is really a shoddy defense. For one, it implies that all black people are the same.

If you think differently, then how about this: There are people outside of the United States who are fairly certain that all Americans are fat, rich, white, angry, not very bright and swear all the time (description courtesy of a friendly cab driver from Singapore). But hey, those people have met a couple Americans before. They probably even have American friends. So obviously they aren’t biased or stereotyping or, heaven forbid, racist at all against Americans. They’re unbiased by proxy. What more defense do they need?

This defense also implies that race is and forever will be the main determining factor in any incident with even a question of racial controversy. Not past criminal records. Not recorded 911 phone calls. It’s just because someone knows someone else (isn’t that the case for everything?).

Unbiased by proxy is used in real life all the time. It doesn’t always focus on minority groups, but for the sake of time and relative dimensions in space, we’ll limit it to them. Of course, it’s not just racial minorities. When called a bigot for vehemently opposing homosexual marriage, an unnamed individual claimed that no, she wasn’t a bigot because she had a friend who was gay, so obviously she wasn’t prejudiced against gays.

Again, whether or not the individual in question is a bigot (and whether or not that’s a really great term to use at all) is not the problem. In this case, the dear misguided woman is all for making choices that affect the lives of hundreds to thousands of minority Americans — and again, whether it’s right or wrong or who cares isn’t the point. She’s defending her stance not because she’s part of that group, not because she has statistical evidence determining that homosexual relationships are detrimental to anything, but because she’s friends with someone who’s considered part of that group.

Another case in point surrounds the controversy concerning several women’s rights. In one instance, an entire committee was formed to debate a certain topic related entirely to women that would affect hundreds of thousands of women every day in every part of the country. Who was on this committee? Well, there weren’t any women, that’s for sure. We think somewhere the committee chair claimed that they didn’t want any biased opinions. And hey, the guys on the committee knew lots of women. Obviously, they would be perfectly unbiased because of it and could simply settle on the facts regardless of religious preferences or political standing.

Unofficial Rule No. 1 in politics states that you have to be biased to get elected. It’s called the party system.

Here’s a news flash for you: A person can have black or Asian or Hispanic friends and still be racist. An individual can be married to a woman and still oppose women’s rights. Someone can have friends of various sexual orientations and still be completely prejudiced against homosexuals.

Unbiased by proxy might be a relatively new term as far as the rest of the world goes, but the concept behind it has been around as long as there has been something to be biased about. While pulling out this defense doesn’t necessarily mean you really are biased or racist or bigoted or what have you, maybe think for a minute — why are you using it in the first place?

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