Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Profiles

I look at the profiles of Baxter, Ridge, and Elsie above, and I'm humbled. While they hint at who these fun-loving critters are and offer a partial image of what they look like, they don't provide the whole picture. No profile can.

Profiles can be wonderful tools; they offer insight into personalities or likes and dislikes or influences of past experiences or predictions of future performance. But profiles are incomplete at best.

The problem is that we're all profilers of sorts, but we rarely admit it. We tend to rely on partial information, like profiles, to make judgments about others or issues. These incomplete pictures lead to stereotyping--something we'd all agree is an unfair, prejudicial, and inaccurate means of assessment.

Lest you wonder where this train of thought originates, I was the victim of unfair profiling last week, and it hurt. It also angered me. I felt completely misunderstood and wrongly accused. I'd been labeled and lumped with every other individual (good or bad) who bears the same labels as I. The person who "profiled" me never even bothered to talk with me directly or discuss matters with me. He just assumed I was one of "them." The specifics of the label aren't important; just the fact that profiling exists is.

You don't believe we're guilty of "profiling?" Look over this arbitrary list of terms. What's your immediate, knee-jerk reaction when you read each one?

Pitbull
Rottweiller
Golden Retriever
liberal
conservative
religious right
secular left
Democrat
Republican
Christian
Muslim
Evangelical
Southerm Baptist
Pro-choicer
Pro-lifer
Wiccan
New Ager
Goth
Welfare mother
Conservationist
College Co-Ed
Teenager
Senior citizen
Baby Boomer
Gen Xer
Veteren
Pacifist

Chances are, we've developed "profiles" in our minds of who or what these terms represent. We're biased. Let's face it; we stereotype the world and the people who dwell there.

The point isn't that we shouldn't or that we won't; we all have (and will have) biased lenses through which we view the world--no one is completely neutral or objective. It's rather that we would do well to become aware of our biases and learn about them. We'd be better off if we realized our limitations and second-guessed our assumptions. We might even profit from getting to know folks (and breeds) who differ from us or our norm.

If I allowed the above profiles of my canine kids to be my only source of information about them, I'd miss the beauty of their individual personalities, the quirkiness of their spirits, the joy of getting to know and touch each one. My world would be a smaller, duller, narrower place.

But if I take the time to get the whole picture (up close and personal), my world becomes a bigger, brighter, more colorful place in which to live.

How about yours? What can you do today to profile less and broaden your world? You'll be glad you did.

Thanks for letting me rant today.

'Til next time,
Joan

1 comment:

Michelle said...

You are so right on with this post. I think you made the important distinction that whether we want to or not we all have profiling tendencies based on our past experiences, societies, culture and 1000 other things. But the key is to, as you put it "realized our limitations and second-guessed our assumptions".

If I went off of limited or first impressions of my dog...I don't think I would like her very much in all her rambunciousness; but taking time to know her and having her as part of my life I know that she is as sweet as she is hyper and as loving as she can be demanding.