George Orwell and Benjamin Whorf are just two of the thinkers who have suggested that our minds are limited and defined by language.
We see the world through the words that we use to describe it.
If that's the case, maybe it's time for the American police to stop describing people in terms of race.
I propose the following experiment: let a few small towns in America experiment with a practice in which suspects will not be described by race. Instead of saying, "two white males" or "two black males" were reported to have held up a 7-11, we'll say "two persons wearing red shirts with blue sneakers."
Would police efficiency be drastically reduced? I don't think so. I bet we could even prove it.
What we have now are stories like Gates'. The 911 caller, Lucia Whalen, was repeatedly asked by the 911 operator to identify the race of the men who forced the door. You could hear in the tone of her voice that she wasn't comfortable doing so. Why are the police so insistent in pinning down the race? If someone just broke into the house, what difference does it make what race they are? Why can't you just describe their clothing instead of their skin?
A friend of mine was physically harassed by two white men in New York. He retreated into a building and called 911. When the police showed up, they took his report as follows, "Ok, two black men were harassing you, right?"
He said, "No, I said they were white men."
The cop answered, "Are you sure they weren't Hispanic?"
On another occasion I was stopped and questioned by police. While one policeman examined my driver's license the other radioed to the base.
"We are questioning a white man." said the cop on the radio.
"Wait a second!" said the other cop, who was examining my driver's license, as if he'd just discovered an important clue, "He's not white, he's a very light-skinned Hispanic!"
After that illuminating racial clarification, they allowed me to proceed on my way.