During your childhood and then your young adulthood you probably spent as much time inside as outside. The inside time was usually experienced in your house or at your school. The outside time was dictated by where you live. If you lived in an urban area or a big city your choices made in a few as to where you want to play and on the social environment. If you lived in the suburbs your choices grew to the many parks and even the less traveled streets and driveways in your neighborhood. If you lived in rural country he may have found a lot of places to enjoy, yet your choices were probably very few as to organize activities outside the school. I have been fortunate to have lived in all those locations.
And each of those locations seems to have its own reputation or profile. You can find this by where people proclaim that they came from like: downtown, uptown in the city, from the suburbs, in the country, the south side, west side, north side or the east side. Depending on where you were at you were probably profiled by the person speaking to you by the description of where they came from.
For example, I used to work with a lady who would proudly proclaim she came from the South side Chicago. I suppose that was to mean that she was tough. This type of profiling even goes to the area of the nation lived in. I can remember when I first moved to Texas and I told somebody I was originally from Indiana I was proclaimed as a “Yankee”. I did not know people still thought that way. If I told them I came from California rather than Indiana, they would say something like you came from the land of fruits and nuts. And if I would tell them I came from New York City, I was a “damn Yankee”. I found the same kind of reaction when I was speaking in the North and I told people that I was from Texas. Some people would respond to me by saying, “Shit Howdy”. Or something like, “wheres your cowboy hat and boots.” Many of these profiles come from the different media sources that we watch. Sources like movies, television, magazines and newspapers. I was more likely to get a preconceived opinion about a place from a movie or television rather than from the books that I studied at school.
This practice of profiling is now even more present when it comes to people from other countries. For some time now the rise of the Hispanic population has started to change the culture in many of the states. I use the word Hispanic because as a policeman it was drilled in to my head to use this term. However the more popular term was Mexican. That is because most of the people who are coming to the big cities like Los Angeles in the past came from Mexico. They were not as welcomed as people from Canada or Europe. But they proved to be hard-working and family oriented, making them a part of the very soul and the fabric of the United States. What is interesting is that today there seems to be more people coming from other South American countries like Columbia, El Salvador and the Dominican Republic. We seem to lump all of these South American countries into one group called Hispanics. But they are not all from the same cultures and from the same governments. Yet we are quick to put them only in one category or profile.
The word profiling represents to many people a very negative image. Yet I think it is something that everyone does every day. It is using what experiences you’ve experienced and taking in all your senses into making some sort of a quick decision or an opinion and how to respond. Maybe you grew up in a neighborhood where the number 13 was meant to represent the letter M for marijuana and then you find yourself in another neighborhood where the number 13 represents some sort of gang affiliation. This could get you into trouble. Maybe you grew up in a neighborhood where the presence of a police car going up and down the street was welcomed as a chance to say hi to the police officer. Or maybe you grew up in a neighborhood where the presence of a police car was not welcomed and usually meant somebody was going to go to jail. Maybe you grew up in an area were a football game was soccer. Maybe you grew up in a small Texas town were football is a contact sport that rules the activities on Friday and Saturday nights.
I mention all of these maybes because this is what helps us develop the way that we profile people. I don’t think the profiling is wrong, because those images are usually based on some sort of life experience. But I do believe that even now when I profile a person or situation quickly, I also can give that person or situation the opportunity to be something different than I originally expected.
This takes some training and some effort and not continuing a knee-jerk reaction provided by profiling. I think the profiling is necessary and can help me from getting into a bad situation. But I also think I must continue to fight the knee-jerk reaction brought on by this profiling.
I’ve mentioned this philosophy in my blogs about how we treat senior citizens. For me this means people that are sixty years and older. Especially once a person gets to 70, 80 or 90 years old. It seems that those people are quickly profiled as feeble, week and unable to contribute to society. It is true that some people do not age well and they become dependent on others. But, there’s a whole group of senior citizens who are more than capable of: and would welcome, the opportunity to be involved.
I am a happy man, a senior citizen, who is active and ready to take on the next adventure. I am sure that my health in the future will diminish. But until things are different I want to be given the opportunity to participate in my culture, my state and my country.