Friday, March 23 , 2018, 7:03 am | Fair 49º


Harris Sherline: Is Profiling Really So Bad? We All Do It

It's unnatural for people to be totally neutral about everyone and everything

“None are so blind as those who would not see.”

It appears to me that we are well along the road to sacrificing our cherished freedoms in America on the altar of political correctness. The latest assault on human nature by the politically correct crowd is the notion that we must all put aside our biases or prejudices, whatever they may be, to avoid offending anyone. But that’s an impossible goal. With around 311 million people in this country, it’s clearly not in the cards to avoid giving offense of any kind to literally everyone.

The recent case of the shooting of Trayvon Martin, a black teenager in south Florida, who was shot and killed by a community watch volunteer in a gated neighborhood, is the latest example of profiling gone awry. He appears to have been shot because he was in a place the shooter thought he did not belong and was dressed in a way that partially concealed his identity, wearing a “hoodie.” The case is now being reviewed by state and federal authorities to determine if there is a basis for charging the shooter.

Everyone profiles. We all have biases about just about everything — food (I like carbs), style, certain types of people, entertainment, members of the opposite sex (I like tall, blonde women), art, etc., etc. The list for each of us is often unspoken, but it does exist.

More to the point, however, is the senseless PC demand that we must not “profile” — for any reason, including giving a pass to those who have specific characteristics of people we may be looking for. We have seen this carried to such extremes as complaining about the police looking for people of color in instances where crimes have been committed by one of them. Another example of this nonsense is the restriction on searching people at airports who may look Middle Eastern or Arab. And New York City police are not allowed to “profile” people who are traveling on the subways.

Is profiling really all that bad? We all do it, all the time, but it’s no longer politically correct to admit it. Everyone profiles others both as individuals and groups by various characteristics — color, race, religion, looks (i.e., attractive people vs. homely or downright ugly), fat or obese vs. thin, well dressed vs. slovenly, well groomed vs. unkempt, men vs. women, occupation, i.e., blue collar vs. white collar, military, corporate types, law enforcement, government workers vs. those in private industry, etc.

The continuous pressure in Western societies to be politically correct about every aspect of life is at best misguided and at worst Machiavellian. It is unnatural for people to be so neutral about everyone and everything that they can conduct themselves in such a way as to give absolutely no offense to any individual or to any group. Do you know anyone who actually tries to do that? In spite of what some people say, I believe it’s simply not possible to subordinate our natural inclinations to such a degree.

Instead, what we get are protestations that people should have no prejudices or predispositions that could possibly be biased or influence their attitudes and conduct toward others. Nonsense!

Everyone is prejudiced in one way or another toward someone or about something. What are some of yours? And, everyone profiles others based on their own predispositions and biases, such as education, experience, career, likes and dislikes, religious beliefs, appearance, etc.

The worst and most dangerous aspect of all this is that political correctness is influencing our policies to the point that it threatens our very security. Why else do we insist on screening travelers who are obviously not a threat, such as elderly men and women and children. It’s an absurd waste of resources that protects no one and leaves us all highly vulnerable.

By persisting in such silliness, we are simply shooting ourselves in the foot. Why not just admit that we all profile others in one way or another?

— Harris R. Sherline is a retired CPA and former chairman and CEO of Santa Ynez Valley Hospital who as lived in Santa Barbara County for more than 30 years. He stays active writing opinion columns and his blog,

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click here to get started >

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >