Profiling Vs. Stereotyping

Profiling Vs. Stereotyping

Why profiling is not necessarily a bad thing, and where the line between profiling and stereotyping lies.
pro·fil·ing: noun
"The recording and analysis of a person's psychological and behavioral characteristics, so as to assess or predict their capabilities in a certain sphere or to assist in identifying a particular subgroup of people."

This is the first result that comes on screen when "profiling definition," is searched on Google. As you can tell, there is no mention of discrimination, racism, or bigotry. Simply put, profiling is observing, analyzing, and making a judgement about a person based upon their behaviors, actions, and image. So, essentially, it is an educated study or prediction of a person's capabilities and intentions.

The term "profiling," is all-too-often associated with stereotyping, which is much different. Stereotyping is judging someone based upon a generalized, oversimplified standard or prejudice set upon them. It does not take deep investigation to stereotype an individual. This is ignorant, unethical, and biased.

Here is an example of profiling:

An off-duty police officer is getting a fountain drink from a convenience store. While standing in the corner, he notices a man pacing up and down the aisles, glancing nervously at the various security cameras in the space. He also observes that the individual is shaking and has his right hand inside of his coat pocket. The officer deduces that this man may be out to cause harm, so he walks over to confront him. Sure enough, as the officer is walking over, the man reaches into his pocket and removes a ski mask - although he did not have time to put it on. The officer pulls his concealed weapon and demands the man get on his knees, with which he complies. After subduing the assailant, he searches him, finding a loaded handgun.

This police officer used profiling techniques to prevent a dangerous, and potentially deadly, crime. He chose to take action based upon the behaviors and activities of the individual. Race, gender, or sexual orientation never came to mind.

Here is an example of stereotyping:

A clean-cut, African-American male walks into a gas station. He's well-dressed, polite, and calm; however, the gas station attendant is only concerned with his skin color. Simply because this man is black, the attendant follows him around the store, ensuring he doesn't try to steal anything. He believes that "black people are thieves." After the African-American customer realizes he is being watched, he confronts the store attendant - in a respectable manner. "Is there a problem, sir?" He asks, to which the attendant responds, "Just making sure you are not like the rest of your kind." In an attempt to suppress this situation, the customer simply leaves without saying anything else.

In this scenario, the gas station attendant labels an individual as a threat simply because of his racial background. This is not profiling, but rather stereotyping. This attendant did not observe any behaviors or make any educational decisions, but simply acted on a prejudice.


There is a fine line between profiling and stereotyping; however, that line can sometimes become fuzzy. The term, "racial profiling," is the main cause of confusion. This term is predominately used to describe law enforcement targeting individuals based upon race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion. Racial profiling and stereotyping are essentially the exact same thing, making this term highly controversial and over-complicated.

Our modern society has made it a trend to place blame upon law enforcement, stating they "profile." Well that is true, they do profile. We all profile. Profiling is in human nature. We do it to identify threats, learn our environment, and read people. Profiling is a part of a police officers job. What law enforcement should not do is stereotype. There are good and bad people in this world, none of whom can be described by a single race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, etcetera. We are all unique in our own ways, and that is what makes the world great.

Take this information and learn a thing or two about profiling and stereotyping. Keep in mind that profiling is not a bad thing, so long as biases and prejudicial opinions are left out of judgement, and be aware of the fine line between the two terms.

Stay informed and #StopStereotyping!

Cover Image Credit: assets1.bigthink.com

Popular Right Now

He Changed Everything.

My soul is richer & my heart is fuller 

Sept 2013 I found myself writing to an evangelist Jennifer Beckham looking for more, looking for answers cause at the time I was in a dark place, and stuck no matter what I did. She wrote back! I cried as I read her respond. She sent me scriptures of who god is and what he wants for us. God says we are more than conquers and endurance develops strength and character. She encouraged me that I was on the right track. Not to give up and she would be praying for me. I saw Jennifer Beckham at a conference that year. I don't remember what she specifically talked about but I remember the feeling. The feeling of wanting to burst out crying, I could feel my eyes being filled with tears, and my heart racing but I wouldn't let out the tears. My pride was too big. I wanted to be strong so I did my best to hold it all in, and I did. At this conference they offered the audience who wanted to go up for prayer and dedicate their life to Jesus Christ. Surprisingly I went up, but I went up with other people that were seeking out salvation. I wasn’t sure if I was going up to support the other people or if it was truly for me. I was confused, even though I said the prayer. I became more confused as the days went on and I wasn't feeling a difference in my life. Nothing was changing. I started reading the bible and many books, listening to sermons, and surrounding myself with positive people. I gave my life to Jesus, but I didn't feel like I was set FREE! I continued feeling empty, lost, broken, guilty, and hurt from the past. There were so many days where I just wanted to give up. Almost felt pointless to fight for my life. At this point in my life I didn't know God very much, but I had just a little bit of faith. My faith was a big as a mustard seed and God took care of the rest. Day by day, year by year I started noticing my life changing. I noticed I was changing. I started feeling happy with who I was and where I was in life. I no longer questioned God about the things that happened to me. In my heart I was ok with the wounds, the hardships, and trials from the past because I now understood those wounds and trials. I realized I was SET FREE! not perfect but set free. I started understanding who I was as a child of our heavenly father. Now it’s Jan 2018 and I’m in awe of who I am and where I am in life, all because of Jesus. His so faithful! I think of the favor, the grace, his mercy, his love, his joy and blessing that he gives me even when I’m undeserving of it, it’s overwhelming. He has never left me nor forsake me. I can say Jesus you changed everything and my heart so forever thankful. 

Today, I encourage you like Jennifer Beckham encouraged me. Keep going and don't give up. No matter what your past looks like believe in your heart that you were created for greatness. Don't let your past determine your future, be the change you want in your life. You have it in you. There is so much more to life, don't miss out on it. It's time to take back your happiness, love, joy, freedom and so much more. It's time to take back EVERYTHING the enemy has taken from you. God has made you an overcomer. I speak it right now, that you will be victorious in 2018 and the years to come. Remember, God loves you! 

Psalm 136:26 (AMP) O give thanks to the God of heaven, for his mercy and loving-kindness endures forever!

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

Oprah Winfrey Running For President?

Golden Globe speech sparking some ideas.

As of Sunday, January 7, 2018, Oprah Winfrey made a few remarks during her Golden Globe speech, hinting to her possibly running for president in 2020. Later, two of her friends, who wish to remain anonymous confirm this speculation. One of the friends said that this idea has been looming for months now but that Winfrey did not come to a conscience yet.

The main point of Winfrey's speech at the Golden Globes was the #MeToo movement. She also made a statement of, "A new day is on the horizon", which many liberal celebrities and viewers heard as a possible campaign cry.

At the moment, there is no serious talk right now about her running for president, but some of her fans have voiced their opinions through Twitter and Facebook after she had her speech. Along with her fans, her long time partner, Stedman Graham also mentioned that her running for president was a possibility

However what Winfrey does not have is political experience. When she needs political advice she looks to the Obamas and she fully endorsed Hillary Clinton. We may have our next Democratic candidate for the 2020 election. Although the race for president does not start until after the 2018 midterms, many candidates are getting a head start. Maybe this is her making her first move. What do you think? Will America choose another TV star as our president?

Cover Image Credit: Wikimedia

Related Content

Facebook Comments