Do I “Profile” People? Yes, but Everyone Does

I profile people constantly.  All that really means is that I like to be fashionable, because apparently the fashion of profiling other human beings is pretty much a universal constant.  It has existed for millennia, and it is certainly transnational as well as being found in every race and culture on the planet.

We even have proverbs and folk sayings that recognize its existence, like “You only have one chance to make a good first impression.”

Don’t believe me?  Well, think about this for a second.  If you have a daughter, and this beautiful, perfect, adorable, lovable daughter has a date with a young man for the first time, and this young man rings the doorbell, what do you do when you open the door?  You look this potential rapist over, searching for clues as to whether or not you should immediately slam the door shut and then rush to the phone to dial 9-1-1 or you should give him a slight benefit of the doubt and let him step inside.

Then this young swain is subjected to a searching appraisal that lasts all of three seconds.  How is he dressed?  Does he have tattoos? If the answer is yes, what kind of tattoos are they?  If this aspirant to keeping company with your beautiful, perfect (etc., etc.) daughter has a tattoo that is of an American Flag with the words “Semper Fi” inked below it, is your evaluation different from that of seeing a tattoo in the same location that says “Born to be Bad”?

If the visual clues about the wannabe boyfriend regarding general appearance, choice of clothing (for instance, are they wearing a suit to pick up your little princess, or are they dressed up for a costume party, while your daughter isn’t?), the prominence of any facial hair, length of the hair on his head (Is it a fashion statement, or is he too poor to afford a haircut), his tattoo status, the presence or absence of jewelry (particularly jewelry embedded in his body), and the like pass scrutiny, the next is the paternal or (in the case so often today in single parent households) maternal interrogation.

“So, what grade are you in?” “Are you going to college in the fall?” “What are you going to major in?” And depending on the answer to the last question, “What career opportunities are there in that field?” (For the truly dense, this last translates to: “So, how much money will you be making?”)  Or “What does your father do for a living?” (If Mom asks the same question, it would be “What does your father do for a living, dear?”)

These, and many more, questions that “profile” the young aspirant to your daughter’s company.

As for you men out there who are thinking, “I only have sons, I’ve never done that”, I can only assume that you suffer from a severe short term memory disorder if you can’t remember being subjected to such profiling yourself when you were young and picking up your date at her parent’s house.

If you ladies are thinking that you’ve really gotten off lucky not having to go through that instant profiling that your boyfriend had to suffer at the hands of your parents, get a grip.  If you don’t have one of those memory deficit disorders, think back on the first time you met his mother.  In my experience, and if you ask your husband (even if he’s your ex-husband now, ask him anyway) how his mother spoke about you after the first time you went to a family dinner at his house before you got married, I’m sure he could confirm that his mother provided the rest of his family with an evaluation how short your skirt was, or how tight it was, or how tight your sweater was, how you were wearing too much make-up, etc., etc., etc.

You should think back on the questions his mother asked you while you’re at it.  “So, do you like children, dear?” (Translation: Am I going to have grandchildren, you hussy?)  Or “So what kind of career are you planning to have, dear?” (Translation: Will you have a job that you can set aside to give me grandchildren?)  “How many brothers and sisters do you have, dear?” (Translation and warning:  If you say four sisters and four brothers, you’re golden.  You’re used to lots of kids around.  If you say you’re an only child, well that would be: “Danger, Will Robinson!”)

The instantaneous evaluation of visual clues as to whether you can offer any trust at all to another human being has been going on for tens of thousands of years.  And as shown, it’s not always about race.  It’s simply a way that people evaluate the risk potential of another human being.  Not necessarily risk only in the sense of a danger of bodily harm, but any risk.  Again, it can be a concern for those you love.

And that risk evaluation is nearly instantaneous.  Granted it might be incorrect, but it is instantaneous and shifts the burden of proof to the individual being profiled.  If you were seeking a mortgage, and you met you banker and he was dressed as if he were an entrant in an M.C. Hammer look-alike contest, would you really feel comfortable discussing your finances with the guy?

The point is that profiling has been practiced by all races, in all countries, throughout the history of human kind inhabiting this ball of rock.  Since it has been passed on through our DNA through thousands of generations, one can only assume that it has, at its heart, some survival benefit.

Acting blindly on an instantaneous profile is stupid, though.  Even if the response to seeing a stranger is to immediately profile them, and it is almost an instinctive response, there might be some value in (a) recognizing that such subconscious profiling exists, (b) realizing that until we can modify human DNA to eliminate it that it will always occur and (c) perhaps through educating people that if there is time, hold those initial evaluations in abeyance.  Give the stranger a bit more time to determine how much trust you’re willing to offer.

We, being humans, will apparently profile other human beings until the sun explodes and wipes us all out, but we don’t have to demonstrate our inability to control our conscious thoughts and allow our subconscious minds full authority over our actions.

Originally published at Canada Free Press.


About Jim Yardley

Retired after 30 years as a financial controller for a variety of manufacturing firms, a two-tour Vietnam veteran, and independent voter.
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One Response to Do I “Profile” People? Yes, but Everyone Does

  1. J-M says:

    Of course I profile people. It’s absurd for anybody to say they don’t, which immediately makes them suspect to me. It marks them as a liar. I DO profile people as to race, which is ameliorated by their dress, their language skills etc. It also matters where I meet these people. Am I in a safe place, restaurant or grocery store? What neighborhood am I in? Is there a group of people, and what age are they? I am absolutely looking at risk. Certain segments and ages of the population seem to be more violence prone. Mob mentality has a place in my assessment.

    Everybody knows that white people aren’t safe in certain places. Whether it’s the barrio or south central LA, people aren’t safe. I don’t live near any muslim neighborhoods, but I wouldn’t go into them and put myself at risk. While blacks, mexicans and muslims complain about being “watched” when they are out and about, whites are at risk of being murdered, car jacked, shot, raped and otherwise harrassed for being out and about or in the wrong place at the wrong time. I think that gays may feel the same high alert feeling when they are out somewhere.

    This is not racist. This isn’t “discrimination” in its current definition. (Whatever happened to “discriminating taste”?) It’s simply the matter of fact assessment of risk or danger. People who cannot tell the difference between good and evil, socially acceptable behavior and/or dress don’t belong in my life, they are dangerous. I profile and discriminate. I’m also honest about it.

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