Profiling has become a familiar term in culture. Profiling is targeting or suspecting a person because of certain characteristics they have. Arabs and Muslims have been profiled as possible supporters of terrorism because of their race and religion. Young African American men have been profiled as being up to no good because of their race and appearance. We all make assumptions about other people, often people we know nothing about, because of something we observe about them. Homeless people are profiled as lazy and self-destructive, Iranians are profiled as hating the United States, people wearing MAGA hats are profiled as racist and unloving of immigrants. To profile means to assume things about others, much of it without a basis in fact.
“Profile” has another meaning as well. A person’s profile is an outline of their face from the side. It’s a wonderful compliment to tell someone, “You have a nice profile.” Obviously, to see someone’s profile is to see them from the side and not head-on. And one of the surest ways to get a good look at someone’s profile is to sit down next to them or to work on something with them, side-by-side. Working next to people gives us more than just a different view of their physical profile, though; it gives us a chance to stop seeing the character of a person through our own biased filters and see them (and let them see us) with both our guards down. When working side-by-side toward a common goal, or sitting side-by-side looking out, we are able to open up and share our humanity with each other through a shared experience. We learn that people so very different-seeming than us often have the same dreams we do, the same weird sense of humor, the same love of family and faith, and the same goals of seeing more and more people prosper and live fulfilled lives.
Equally important to seeing how much we have in common, working side-by-side gives us a chance to understand and appreciate what makes us different. How dull and boring this world would be with everything the same color, with only one kind of music, only one type of food…only one way of doing anything. Yet when pressed into face-to-face argument, we often miss what we can celebrate when we sit down and experience life next to one another.
Profiling is not going away. But we have a choice as to what kind of profiling we are going to commit our energy to – the easy kind that makes assumptions about us and others that are usually untrue, or the harder kind that requires us to sit down or roll up our sleeves next to each other to get a true profile of someone we don’t yet have the privilege of truly knowing.
Nathan Dickson is an attorney with Jinks, Crow & Dickson, P.C.