Profiling Vs. Stereotyping
Politics and Activism

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!

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
Barefoot Wine Instagram

Have you noticed that you're drinking a lot more than you used to during the Pandemic? You're not alone.

I too in recent weeks have noticed that I'm drinking more than normal, and earlier in the day. I've started having a glass of wine with lunch a few days a week, something I never used to do. Although, a recent Odyssey survey shows that most Americans are starting to drink between 4 and 8 pm.

Keep Reading... Show less

These Phoebe Buffay Outfits Prove She's A '90s Fashion Icon — We're Replicating EVERY Single One

In case you needed another reason to love our favorite coffee shop singer.


I've always been described as the Phoebe of my friend group — not just for being a vegan, animal-loving people pleaser, but also for the false sense of confidence in my singing and athleticism.

I consider it a compliment to be labeled a Phoebe. Besides her general warmth, I was always drawn to her hippy-chic vibes and passion for environmentalism before it was even cool to be vegan or to care about the planet. The way she carelessly ran through parks flailing her limbs without a care mimicked her effortlessly eccentric style.

Keep Reading... Show less
Politics and Activism

Elijah McClain's Case Is Being Reopened — His Family Is Still Waiting For Justice

The killing of an innocent Black man will be reinvestigated, and that news that brought me to tears.

9News / YouTube

On August 24, 2019, in Aurora, CO, a 23-year-old Black man named Elijah McClain was walking home from a convenience store after buying iced tea for his brother. He was wearing a ski mask because he was anemic and easily got cold. He was listening to music and dancing while he walked when someone called 911 on this Black man simply walking home.

Keep Reading... Show less

'Tis the season for wedding fun and if you're hosting or helping plan a bachelorette party for the bride-to-be, you're going to want it to be a blast. Whether it's a social distance soiree or a virtual party, games will always spice up the time with the gals, so if you're looking for a fun and easy one to get the party started (and everyone drunk), this game is for you.

What's the name of the game? "Drink If: Bachelorette Party Edition." Here's how it works.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

I Talked To My Friend About Her Cystic Fibrosis And Wow, CF Patients Are WARRIORS

Not many people can say they've had a double lung transplant.

Alissa Katz

Forty percent of the United States lives with a chronic disease. These diseases are unique in their own way, but one thing is the same — every individual who lives with a chronic condition faces obstacles because of their disease.

Not only do these illnesses require a lot of education for the individuals who have them, but for the community as a whole. The more we as a society know about these diseases, the more well-rounded (and ideally, helpful) we'll be. If anything, we'll have a greater appreciation for the strength individuals with chronic conditions show on a daily basis.

Keep Reading... Show less

We've all been there... your brain was telling you "bad idea," but your heart was saying "but what if..." and now you're heartbroken. Whether you were actually in a relationship with the person or you never made it passed the "talking stage" before he broke your heart, it still hurts!

The good news? You're not alone and things will get better. Here are a few TikToks that will motivate you to move on, no matter what stage of the breakup process you're in.

Keep Reading... Show less

How To Create A Summer Reading List On Odyssey

Books are the perfect summer companions.

It's officially summer 2020, and yes, we're still in the middle of a global pandemic, which means a lot of your free time this summer is probably going to involve watching Netflix. But you can't take Netflix to the pool or on the beach.

Keep Reading... Show less
Facebook Comments