Profiling We All Do It
by Kevin Probst
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Profiling? We all do it. Don't deny it. If you are breathing, you are profiling. No one would deny that profiling can sometimes be very hurtful. It is unpleasant when you are the book that is being judged by its cover. It is certainly wrong to assign guilt based on color or certain character traits before gathering facts and providing for a fair trial. We tend to think of profiling in racial terms only. We also profile by gender. We profile by faith. We profile by age. We profile geographically, philosophically, economically and socially.
Profiling is the process of using specific characteristics or traits to make a generalization about a person. When I was dating the woman who would become my wife I did some serious profiling. There were certain traits and characteristics I was looking for. She was also profiling me. When my wife and I started looking for a church for our family to attend we did some serious profiling. We were looking for certain theological and ministerial traits that we could agree with and devote to.
Most profiling is based on the analysis of statistics. Proponents of school choice profile certain schools by looking at graduation rates, attendance rates and test scores. If the school is performing poorly they want to be free to choose another school where there children may have a greater opportunity to be successful.
When my six year old son is old enough to date, his mother and I will be doing some serious profiling. We will want to know what traits characterize the girl who has captured his interest. We will expect her to have some spiritual qualities, some intellectual capabilities and some domestic talents and I would expect her father and mother to profile my son in the same way we will be profiling their daughter.
Not too many years ago, it was not so uncommon for fathers here in the south to sit on their porches and profile, not so subtly, the young men who wanted to date their daughters. They did that forcefully with a certain instrument in their hands. If the boy of interest were a thug, a useless, lazy slug who had no direction or ambition in your life, if he was self-obsessed and out to exploit the daughter simply to satisfy his own sexual lusts…he was quickly profiled and told to get lost, emphatically.
When my wife and I adopted our son six years ago, we were asked to create a profile of ourselves, our family and our home. We put together the best project we could come up with. We were told by our case-worker that we should downplay the "Christian thing". "Mothers, especially young mothers, are put off if it appears you are too religious." Shannon and I discussed that and decided we wanted to be totally honest about who we are. We made religion a central part of our profile because it is a central part of our home. A few months later we got a call from Lacey, the birth mother of our son, Kameron. She profiled us. She chose us to be the parents of her son because of what she saw in our profile.
Again, profiles are based on statistics. We profile certain neighborhoods in our city. There are places we won't go as a family or when we are alone because the crime-rate in these specific places deemed them unsafe. It is not because they are white, black, Hispanic or Asian…it is because the statistics show they are dangerous places.
Crime investigators have been extremely successful in using psychological profiling to assist them in tracking down criminals. They have discovered that many people who have been abused as children display abnormal behaviors as adults. It they were involved in petty crimes in their youth they are more likely to be participate in serious crimes as adults.
Local pastors in my community have learned to profile couples who seem to be safe from divorce. When a couple comes in for counseling they ask them the following questions: Do you attend church together? Do you read your Bibles together? Do you pray together? If the answers to these questions are affirmative the chance this couple will divorce is nearly non-existent.
As a teacher I often profile my students. Years of experience have taught me to look for certain traits that will indicate whether my students will experience academic success or not. A twenty-year veteran teacher can tell after just the first few days of school which students will excel and which students will struggle academically.
As a parent, I profile what television programs my six-year old can watch. I profile what music he can listen to and what computer games he can play. He is not always excited about my choices but until I consider him old enough to make those decisions for himself, I am the profiler-in-chief.
We are so opposed to profiling here in the United States that the system we have developed to provide security from terrorists is insanely inefficient and offensive. Trained agents groin grope and strip search ninety year old grandmothers and nine year old children. They look for things instead of profile people. Why have the Israelis been so successful in preventing terrorist attacks on their airlines? They unabashedly profile those boarding Israeli flights. They are highly trained and if you fit a certain profile you are pulled aside for some rapid fire questioning that is designed to make it impossible for you to pull the wool over their eyes.
Americans are accustomed to the inconsistent reaction to profiling in America. The recent incident involving Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman perfectly demonstrates our inconsistencies. Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and Louis Farrakhan were all very eager to ride their steeds into Sanford, Florida, to save the day. They framed this crime as white on black even though Zimmerman is Hispanic. They successfully stirred up racial animosity in the community while blatantly ignoring the innumerable black on black crimes that are common throughout the nation. It is statistically proven that black on black crimes are much more common than white on black crimes or black on white crimes. Why is this acceptable? Why do these black leaders turn their heads on crime in black neighborhoods as if those living there are of less value than those living in a gated community?
Profiling is not always a bad thing. Profiling is not always racism. When one properly interprets the statistics, profiling can be a life-saving procedure and it can improve the security of our communities and our nation.
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