Profiling: The Way we Judge Each Other

Today, my students and I discussed another topic on break: profiling.

As a writer, I take a great interest in how a story moves.  Funny thing is that we profile our characters whenever we start a fictional piece.  We begin the in much the same manner as a person profiles another person.

We look at the way the character dresses first.  Some of us look at the way the character grew up.  We develop a manner of speech that the character uses, patterns that develop into personality traits.  Some writers look at skin color, to determine whether or not the character will react a certain way in certain situations.  Writers look at personality flaws in the character.  Personality flaws are very important to us, since flaws are what add interest to the character, make the character come alive.

A great example of a profile could be the way I wrote this article.  I could have, for example, written my list of character flaws as bullets rather than sentences.  Perhaps my resolve in not creating my list as a bulleted list demonstrates that I am not organized.  Or, perhaps that I do not have the writing skills to even attempt to create a bulleted list.

Profiling is what we do to each other every day of the week.  We profile to determine whether or not this person will fit in our job, if we are looking for more people to fit into the corporate culture we have created.  We profile to figure out if this person is a fit for us in becoming an acquaintance, or even a friend.  We profile to decide whether this person is worth our time by initiating a conversation with them.  Some of us even profile a person to ascertain whether or not they should be allowed to walk the streets, let alone sit on a bench, waiting to catch a bus.

So why did this conversation come up in the first place?  Because we were discussing the racial and gender profiling that took place in the sixties, and still takes place today.  Age discrimination is rampant in companies – it is the young against the old – oh, their Human Resources staff will deny it, but just how stupid or naive do they think we are?  We even help others profile ourselves by the way we dress, the way we carry ourselves, and the way we talk.  Oh, we try to keep our opinions to ourselves, muttering occasionally in our cliques…generally.  But when the votes are tallied and the books are closed, we still profile.

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