We all profile

April 29, 2012 

Anyone who has watched or listened to my morning commentary over the years will know that I have contended for a long, long time that we all profile and stereotype to some degree. Whether we like it or not we summarize people we meet everyday.

Everybody in the world of business knows (or should know) they have a brand, but so does everyone else, even those not necessarily connected to owning and operating their own in business. How you are perceived by different people may be varied, based on the prism in which they view you.

I came across an interesting website this week titled Emotional Competency. The perspective offered by those who author the site is probably a bit too “progressive” for my taste, but I found some fascinating annotations and reading that concerns the subject of stereotyping, tagging and profiling.

The website refers to these particular brands that humans assign one another as “Symbols of People” or defining traits. That’s right, according to this site, we all stereotype when we meet people and put each other in categories based on the wide range of individual characteristics we observe.

It used to be if you watched news stories develop around the world that it could only be Anglo-American individuals who profiled or used snap judgments or prejudices, particularly in the southern United States.

Finally, a breakthrough came about when a noted liberal commentator admitted his profiling of Muslims on airplanes. In 2010, NPR contributor Juan Williams admitted he was frightened while sitting on the plane waiting for departure as he saw Muslims “in full garb” board the same plane. That straightforward comment about his profiling resulted in him losing his NPR gig, and there was great upheaval at the management level over his termination.

Fast forward to current circumstances. We have become embittered over societal struggles. Most provocative has been the now world famous Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman tragedy that occurred in February.

Prominent characteristics of both Martin and Zimmerman have repeatedly been splashed across news programs as we all take sides. Via national television coverage we have had our minds shaped, and it seems evident we know exactly what happened that Sunday evening.

Those of us paying attention have been subjected to horrible descriptions of 28-year-old George Zimmerman. He has been labeled a bigot, troublemaker, loner, bully and aggressor. We do know this, right or wrong, Zimmerman profiled Martin.

Instead of focusing on how to better prepare a Neighborhood Watch volunteer so a traumatic event never has a similar outcome, we go on arguing over who is at fault, “angelic” Trayvon or “racist” Zimmerman and/or the “inept knuckleheads” of the Sanford Police Department.

It is happening in our own community, too.

In Macon, many are at odds over Bibb School Superintendent Dr. Romain Dallemand. Is he a huckster or a hero, role model or radical, expert or elitist? For those desperate for an improvement plan, any plan to advance the plight of the local public schools’ reputation and increase graduation rates, Dallemand is a darling.

But not so fast, please. Detractors of Dallemand thinks he’s a deceiver, steeped in rhetoric and hypothesis, a philosopher primed with platitudes, while successfully tricking otherwise unsuspecting community investors with a plethora of eccentric educational theories.

Future school boards can learn from the employment process that was used to profile and hire Dallemand. They will be able to find ways to better sketch the correct candidate and avoid hiring another controversial figure that steals the spotlight rather than shines a light.

Kenny Burgamy serves as a marketing consultant and is co-host of the Kenny B. Charles E., TV, radio and Internet program.

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