Forum N.H.I.: Knowledge for the 21st Century. vol. 1, no. 1, Fall 1994.

You may have heard a radio news report which aired briefly during the days after the jury’s acquittal of the policemen in the Rodney King beating case. The report stated that public officials of the judicial system of Los Angeles routinely used the acronym N.H.I. to refer to any case involving a breach of the rights of young Black males who belong to the jobless category of the inner city ghettoes. N.H.I. means “no humans involved.”

Stephen Jay Gould argues that “systems of classification direct our thinking and order our behaviors.” [Gould, 1983] By classifying this category as N.H.I. these public officials would have given the police of Los Angeles the green light to deal with its members in any way they pleased. You may remember too that in the earlier case of the numerous deaths of young Black males caused by a specific chokehold used by Los Angeles police officers to arrest young Black males, the police chief Darryl Gates explained away these judicial murders by arguing that Black males had something abnormal with their windpipes. That they had to be classified and thereby treated differently from all other North Americans, except to a secondary degree, the darker-skinned Latinos. For in this classificatory schema too all “minorities” are equal except one category that of the peoples of African and of Afro-mixed descent who, as Andrew Hacker points out in his recent book, are the least equal of all.

“Certainly,” Hacker writes, in Two Nations: Black and White, Separate, Hostile, Unequal (1992) “all persons deemed to be other than white, can detail how they have suffered discrimination at the hands of white America. Any allusions to racist attitudes and actions will find Cherokees and Chinese and Cubans agreeing with great vigor ... yet ...members of all these intermediate groups have been allowed to put a visible distance between themselves and Black Americans.

“The Vietnamese,” Richard Pryor quipped, “learned how to be Americans. They can now say nigger.”