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Old 03-28-2012, 12:04 PM
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Thumbs down Is Profiling Human Nature?

Across the nation, thousands of people have donned hoodies in support of Trayvon Martin.

Today, Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Illinois was removed from the House floor after giving a speech about Trayvon Martin while wearing a hoodie.

"Just because someone wears a hoodie does not make them a hoodlum," he said.
As we all stand around cheering and supporting this sentiment, I wonder how many of us have been guilty of profiling, perhaps without even realizing it.

I know that I have personally been guilty of this.

Out on walks at night, I have crossed the street to avoid someone walking towards me for no better reason than they made me uncomfortable.

Maybe it was the hoodie or the stocking cap. (Hilariously enough, I was likely wearing one.) Maybe I associated their appearance with thugs. By crossing the street to avoid the encounter, does this make me evil? Am I unfairly profiling? Or, is it common sense? Would I have reacted if the approaching person would have been dressed as a jogger?

Inside of all of us I believe are preconceived notions based on previous experiences or even the beliefs we were brought up with. That doesn’t necessarily make us horrible people because the key is what action we take on those feelings. Are we rude or disrespectful to those who our different from our own personal expectations?

In my humble opinion, crossing the street to avoid crossing paths with someone who makes you uncomfortable is fair and has likely saved some lives over the years. Chasing someone down because they seem suspicious to you (instead of letting the police handle your concern) is where the line gets crossed.

What are your thoughts?

Is profiling human nature?

Is there ever a legitimate purpose to profiling?

Is profiling pure evil?
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Old 03-28-2012, 12:33 PM
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I can't tell you how many times I've been followed around a store by security, with no other reason than I'm a teenager.
I think in certain cases, such as a safety concern, it's okay to cross a street away from someone you don't know.
However, purposefully following someone because you have a holier than thou attitude is completely wrong. Police are here for a reason; let them do their jobs.
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Old 03-28-2012, 01:00 PM
stephen.king stephen.king is offline
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Sure, there's a legitimate law enforcement use of profiling.

Over and above that, though, yes, we as humans make assumptions as part of our nature about those we come into contact with. Ever looked at somebody wearing glasses and think, "oh, I bet she's smart"? Or somebody with a particular haircut and think, "oh, I bet he's in the military"? It's normal.

In my college I require students to wear their scrubs correctly (not hanging down on their butt cheeks) and clean and freshly pressed. Why? Because others profile them. When they look sharp, people automatically assume they are sharp, while when they come in with facial piercings and/or hoodies or whatever, people make other assumptions.

I wear a suit every day to work. I don't technically have to; I can get by in slacks and a shirt and either the coat or tie. But hell, I profile myself. When I look good, I feel good. I act different. People act different toward me.

Another example: priests don't have to wear the special collar everywhere they go. But when you see somebody wearing one, you profile the Hell out of him, don't you?

Anyway--making assumptions about people is what we do. I don't think we can ever get away from it, and we have to assume that others are doing that about us. But the initial assumption isn't a bad thing, is it? It's what we do with it that can be troublesome. It's one thing to see a black kid in a hoodie and think, "oh, he might be trouble." It's another one entirely to act on that assumption by challenging him and, ultimately, shooting him.
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Old 03-28-2012, 01:16 PM
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Sunfyre7896 Sunfyre7896 is offline
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I know I've been guilty of this. However, it's not ever based on racial profiling, but on class type profiling. What I mean by this is that if I see, for instance a black man, but he's wearing a suit or nice casual clothing, I think nothing of it, but then I see a white man, but he's dressed very poorly and possibly dirty, I unconsciously think that he's going to ask for money and I'm a little suspicious of him, but not the well dressed black man.

To that end, I'm not going to say that I'm a classist however, as I know there are some very good people that are poor, while there are some real sh**heads that are wealthy or at least well off. I just think there's some mechanism that subconsciously tells me to be weary of those that seem like they need the money more that puts me sort of on guard at times, unless the place I'm at is busy.

I'm not proud of it, but you asked.

But as to whether it's human nature, I'd say to an extent it is. People tend to profile people that are different than they are one way or another. I think there's an evolutionary basis to this. Initially, it was to protect the tribe you were in from others that didn't appear to live in the area you were in. As time passed, I think it changed to more of a social class type profiling and assumptions were made that those below your standing were somehow inferior. Then as we, as humans, approached modern times, it became more of a financial matter. And then add to that, all of the intermingling of peoples and cultures within America. People from countries they'd never seen before or weren't on the best terms with were thrust together in some of the larger cities during the turn of the 20th century. Some of this distrust can be seen even to this day in the form of racism and a type of culturism. Whether they think they are better is really up to the individual, but the crux of the issue is still a misunderstanding and a labeling of people as different in some facet.

I don't condone profiling, however, I do think that unconsciously it happens. I believe that even being as modern of a society as we've become, it's still more work at times for us to push those thought away than it is to think them. As much as we want to believe that we are fully accepting of everybody, we still view others at times with suspicion, whether it's a foreign culture with extremists such as in the case with the Middle East after 9/11 or a shady character following us on a sparsely crowded street at night; people as a whole are going to profile someone.

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Old 03-28-2012, 02:38 PM
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Profiling has gotten a lot of bad rep in recent years due, IMO, to misguided news coverage of it. All of us are human. You get no second chance at a first impression. If my first impression of you triggers a bell in my head then yes, I have made a preliminary opinion of you, what you are about and what you you might do. I don't feel guilty about that and I am not likely to change since I am correct a large percentage of the time.

If you are honest you do the same thing and we all know it. You can kid yourself and say it it is not true; but it is only you you are kidding.

One of the populist pieces that airs on the news channels is the rich young black man driving a flashy set of wheels. I am fairly sure the statics will bear me out though I am far to lazy to look them up; about 85% of the time that is a valid indicator of a problem situation. Now the rich young black man who gets stopped should be pissed at the other 85% and not the officer who doing his/her job. I understand it is a pain but!

As Earl Pitts would say, 'Wake up America'!
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Old 03-28-2012, 03:03 PM
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MO...method of operation....of a criminal....

MOD....method of dress.....some times matches that of a known criminal style....
At night a man (any race) dressed in all black clothing in a business district after the stores are closed...
Stands a good chance of being a burglar.....

Is that profiling or is it just using reasoning for a law enforcement officer to inquire as to the person's business in the area...

Many other scenarios fit well known patterns that "might" indicate criminal activity...

Only a properly trained professional should inquire of the person......
others should call the local police and back away to a safe distance....and observe the "suspect"...until the police arrive....

How simple is that.?...
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Old 03-28-2012, 03:25 PM
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anytime that someone wears clothing that conceals their identity, people are going to be suspicious. The darker one skin, that harder it will be to see facial feature inside a hood. When the two are combined, you will get increased suspicion levels.

I know it may not be PC, but I believe that how one chooses to display themselves says a great deal about them.

The premise of neighborhood watch programs is that they watch any strangers that are in the neighborhood.
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Old 03-28-2012, 03:32 PM
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Part of the answer depends on what you consider "profiling" to be. There is a perfectly legitimate use for "profiling" as follows:
  1. You have a building in which a crime is committed, a murder, a stabbing.
  2. Circumstances suggest the crime was committed by an employee of Company A.
  3. The height and angle of the wound suggests the perpetrator was between 5 and 5.8 ft tall.
  4. The location of the wound suggests the killer was left handed.
  5. Blood tracks leading away from the scene suggest the killer wore stiletto heels.
  6. Over 6000 people work in the building. 4000 were there the day of the murder.

Someone that doesn't believe in profiling would start by interviewing all 6000 people.

Someone with a brain would start with the 3 left-handed women between 5 - 5.8' tall that were at work for Company A that day.
So yes... profiling has a place in law enforcement
We had several bombings and planbe crashes and several more attempted attacks of a noisy ballistics nature in the early 20th century, and almost every time it was an Arabic Muslim male in a certain age range.

Why somebody in the TSA would subsequently let someone that matches that description board a plane un-inspected while frisking a ten yr old black kid or a gray-haired white-skinned matron is beyond retarded. If ducks are killing you, watch for ducks. Do not for the sake of political correctness frisk zebras and ignore ducks.
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Old 03-28-2012, 04:31 PM
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Profiling (automatic) is human nature, its what keeps us out of harms way. We use our own view of the world and the people in it to do this, we are not always right, in fact we can be very wrong at times.
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Old 03-28-2012, 05:39 PM
Lauren at LucasWorks Lauren at LucasWorks is offline
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Personally, I don't understand what's wrong with profiling.

When (for example) 100% of the people trying to blow up our planes are middle eastern men between the ages of 16 and 35, I'm thinking that law enforcement should be looking more closely at that same group when they're boarding planes. You may call it 'profiling', I call it common sense.

When some friendly, nicely dressed strangers appear at my front door holding pamphlets, I start by telling them I'm a Catholic, because I assume they're Jehovah's Witnesses (and I haven't been wrong yet.)

I steer clear of bad neighborhoods whenever I can, not because everyone who lives there is bad, but because it's where bad things are more likely to happen.

So am I profiling? Of course. Is it wrong? Only if you have something against someone using the brains God gave them.
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Old 03-29-2012, 05:22 AM
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Old 03-29-2012, 07:39 AM
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Match made in heaven Zap.
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Old 03-29-2012, 09:02 AM
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Profiling is part of human nature.

That being said, we can be challenged to look beyond profiling in our own lives. Accept that people are going to make a first impression but allow for first mistakes when we are dealing with people. <allow do-overs>

Some of the kindest people I've met initially didn't seem that way.

Some of the most religiously learned people I've met turned out to be the world's biggest jerks.

I think that when it comes to crossing the street when someone who makes you nervous is coming your way or checking behind you to see who is making those footsteps ... that's just good common sense.

But missing out on all those people you might profile as "unacceptable" is the real crime when it comes to getting to know people.
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Old 03-29-2012, 02:17 PM
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I do think we all do it to a certain extent. It's only common sense to be aware of what's going on around you and people around you, especially if you are in a situation where it might be less safe (out alone at night).

As for me, yes, I "profile" but I think race is much less a factor or a non-factor. It may be because my mom used to lock her car doors any time she saw a black person, and that bothered me terribly, so I've always been more conscious of it. If I'm out walking alone and I see a young man not dressed too well ... I'm going to take special note. I don't care what race he is. I'm a lot more likely to consider someone's age, sex, and perceived social standing into account for all kinds of decisions, since race has proven far less useful to me than any of those. Even so I'm wrong sometimes. I had a group of unkempt young people approach me one time, and before I knew it they offered to help and even came back another day and helped me move things. They were great kids, and I still remember that group fondly.

I can remember instances when I've been profiled. My tape recorder broke one day and I had to get a new one before class the next day, so I hurried to the store dressed in working clothes. Immediately a security officer got behind me and shadowed me the whole time I was in the store, they didn't want to let me look at a camera flash from the case while I was there, and when I tried to buy a cheap tape recorder the clerk said rather condescendingly, "That isn't used to play music, you know." LOL, I wanted it to record the lecture in my graduate level neuro-psych course, thank you very much.

And the last time I flew, I accidentally forgot to take the knitting needles from my carry-on. When I asked the agents about it, they said "No problem" and let me carry them on. LOL, long steel needles, are you kidding me??? But hey, a tube of toothpaste and you're gonna bust this other guy.

Just a few weeks ago, I had to hurry to the grocery store for something, so I wore my "farm clothes" instead of dressing like I usually do for town. No less than three people came up to me while I was trying to choose groceries and commiserated about the cost of food these days, and a couple even told me where I could get this or that cheaper. (The funny thing was, it was milk I was looking at. When I buy milk, I usually pay $6 a gallon for fresh raw milk from an organic farm nearby, which is more than the grocery store regular gallons -- not much anymore though! But they all assumed I was looking for cheap.)

Yes, I think everyone does it. Sometimes the results are humorous, sometimes they keep us safe, and sometimes the results are just sad. Since you broke this off from the Trayvon thread, I do think that using "a young black male wearing a hoodie" as a reason to pursue is just wrong. If I were out walking alone, I'd take notice of a young male, no matter the race. And I guess I just don't get the hoodie thing ... I wore them, my daughter wore them, and I never thought anything of it.

Last edited by Inspired Ink; 03-29-2012 at 02:20 PM.
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Old 03-31-2012, 02:26 PM
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I would say profiling comes by nurture, not nature.
However; I instruct my children never to ignore their instincts.
Way better to look or feel foolish than to actually be foolish.
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Old 03-31-2012, 03:30 PM
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I think its instinct in a way, as well as human experience, and what we're taught,and then end up teaching our kids. I always form a sort of "opinion" about a person when I meet them for the first time. Sometimes, I can spot a bad person a mile away, but sometimes One slips through the radar, and that makes me tighten security, so to speak. I guess in a way, I can be too harsh, especially when someone that freaks me out seems to be more freaked out by me. . I live in an area where people are terribly judgemental, and seem to put a person in certain categories for no other reason than what they wear and/or act in public. Ninety percent of the time, I am wearing black, right down to my nail polish, and generally don't talk to people unless I have to, mainly because of my accent. People tend to stare at me and probably think I am a tourist and part of the "underworld" when all I really am is a harmless goth. (go figure)
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Old 04-02-2012, 04:15 PM
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Originally Posted by Dreamrage View Post
I think its instinct in a way, as well as human experience, and what we're taught,and then end up teaching our kids. I always form a sort of "opinion" about a person when I meet them for the first time.
Couldn't agree more, profiling is simple basic instincts viewed through statistics. Our judgement is based on the information we know or are presented to us, as a result there is heavy reliance on media and profiling. In other words, our basic instincts influenced by profiling (along with experience), create the most important first impression. Therein we also find the problem, for the very definition of statistics is "the science of producing unreliable facts from reliable figures".
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Old 04-03-2012, 12:23 AM
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I don't know that it's human nature. I do think that it's reasonable, under certain circumstances. Reasonable isn't necessarily 'right', however. Obviously I'm hung on the issue of profiling.

If it's Arabs hating us and setting out to take down our airplanes, for example, what freaking sense is it to feel down Caucasian five-year olds and/or Caucasian octogenarians? Really. And if it's gang members dressed certain ways out to kill us just for 'the fun of it', what's the sense in stopping peeps dressed in formal attire?

Then again, stopping a car with a black driver in a white neighborhood for no other reason than that the driver is black, is bigotry. So where do we draw the line between profiling and bigotry?

I realize the generalities involved in what I've just said. And I don't address the Trayvon issue, except by accident of hoodie.

Geraldo, by the way, is an extremist in his way. Which has nothing to do with his Latinonish. Which, isn't that Zimmerman guy Latino?

Hoodies are freaking useful. And dangerous. You could catch those dang drawstrings in a bad spot and strangle yourself.
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Old 04-13-2012, 04:22 PM
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People naturally tend to form "in groups" and "out groups". We are wired to feel proud of the group that we're in, and to have negative feelings (such as fear, resentment, or superiority) to groups that we're not part of and don't understand.
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Old 04-13-2012, 04:40 PM
Lauren at LucasWorks Lauren at LucasWorks is offline
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Mikewetheim, I don't see people forming groups as profiling at all. People (and animals, for that matter) are naturally drawn to those they have something in common with.

We all try to choose our homes with as much care as possible. We chose our friends and our churches, and try to help our children choose the right friends, too.

I don't think that we have negative feelings towards groups we're not a part of, unless those groups are known to be or to do negative things.
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