A short story by Jan L. Zepeda
There were once two university students who wanted to conduct a study on police profiling. One of them was a skeptic and believed the repeated shootings of unarmed minorities were purely coincidental. The other believed that there was something ingrained in police officers’ subconsciouses that made them target non-whites. So they decided to do a little experiment, and went down to a local gun range to ask the owner for his cooperation.
The experiment went as follows: First, they made sure that no one was at the gun range except for three police officers who frequented the place; then, they removed all of the targets and installed three of their own making. The three targets they set up were simple cardboard cutouts of a basic human outline, such as the ones seen on bathroom door signs. One of the targets was painted white, another was painted brown, and the last one was painted black. The white target was set up on the left, the brown one in the middle, and the black one to its right. Once the targets were set up they left the gun range and awaited the results.
The first day, after setting the whole thing up, they drove down to a nearby diner and waited for the gun range owner to call and say that the officers had finished. About an hour later they received the call and headed back. Upon inspection they discovered that the white target had been left unscathed—not a single shot had been fired at it. The brown target was missing its top half, as it apparently had been completely shot off. All that was left of the black target, meanwhile, was a smoldering pile of ashes.
“Surely it’s just a coincidence” said the skeptic. “Maybe they just like shooting at the rightmost target.”
They decided to do the experiment again the next day: This time they re-positioned the targets so the white one was on the right, the black one on the left, and the brown one in the middle. Once again they went down to the diner and waited. Two hours later the gun range owner called and the two students went to check the results. The white target was again left intact—this time, however, it seemed that one of the officers had laminated it. The black target was once again just a pile of ashes. The brown target was nowhere to be found, though. The two students asked the owner if he knew what had happened to it, and he told them that the officers had shot the target to pieces and then scooped up what was left, driven down south, and hurled it over the Mexican border.
By now the results seemed rather obvious. Still the skeptic refused to give in.
“Let’s do it one more time,” he said.
So again they set everything up, leaving the white target in the middle this time, and went down to the diner. After three hours they got the call and headed back. Not surprisingly, the white target was again left untouched—this time, however, an altar had been placed in front of it. Some knee prints in front of the altar and some prayer candles atop it led the students to believe the officers had been praying to it. It was also once again laminated. Again, the brown target was missing, but this time the black target was missing as well. Apparently, as the owner told it, the officers had removed the targets and driven them down to a testing site in the Arizona desert, where they had been blown apart by nuclear bombs.
Both the college students were now not only convinced, but also thoroughly pissed off, and so they decided to play a trick on the policemen. They set up all the targets just like usual, except this time they covered the white target with a thin piece of black paper, so it would look like there were two black targets. They also didn’t leave for the diner—they simply hid and observed. When some shots had been fired the two revealed themselves and called for the officers to stop shooting. They then peeled off the black paper covering the white target.
The officer who had shot it dropped to his knees and screamed, “Why god, why?!”. He looked up at the sky and continued to cry.
The other two looked absolutely shocked, but after a few moments began to brutally beat the third.
The two students wound up receiving various awards, as well as international recognition, for their groundbreaking findings. Of the three officers, one ended up becoming an alcoholic and a hobo who traveled the country spreading wisdom. (And shooting up heroin.) Another became a monk and moved to Tibet to live in the Himalayas. The third (the one who shot the white target) went on trial for first-degree murder. He was convicted in the fastest trial ever recorded. He was sentenced to be hanged—partly due to the tearful testimony of the two other policemen. After being hanged, the jury decided this was not enough, and so using groundbreaking technology they revived him and then burned him at the stake. White Target was the title of a book written about the life and death of the white target. It was later turned into a movie which grossed four hundred million at the box office and received two Academy Awards—the titular character was played by Johnny Depp.