OPINION – Definition: The act or process of extrapolating information about a person based on known traits or tendencies ; specifically : the act of suspecting or targeting a person on the basis of observed characteristics or behavior
Racial profiling has been a hot controversial topic in past years, coming to it’s peak with the Rodney King Beating and most recently the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) Fruitvale incident, in Oakland, California, which the movie Fruitvale is base on, documenting the tragic final hours of Oscar Grant, a young man senselessly killed by a BART police officer. This subject without fail invites a forum of highly emotional debates and at times out of control verbal outbursts from my students at the continuation schools and correctional facilities where I counsel and facilitate workshops. With some not even saying a word, you can see and even feel the deep seething dislike and even hatred for law enforcement. Negative encounters with law enforcement have left emotional scars and have birthed deep-rooted beliefs that police are either raciest, corrupt or both. The belief that law enforcement are blood thirsty predators, searching the “hood” for minority prey, to satisfy their relentless, insatiable appetites for power..
As a youth I once shared this belief. I obtained this belief through the encounters my friends and I have had, getting pulled over and followed by law enforcement or security. “What gang are you from?”, “Are you on parole?”, “Are you going to purchase anything?”. “Raciest!” my friends and I would rant, offended by their accusations. At the age of seventeen, I had a negative encounter with what I believed to be a dishonest and racial police officer, the experience had reinforced my beliefs and dislikes for law enforcement at that point in my life. This negative experience was sparked by an arrest which was prompted by my friend and I being profiled as a suspects for multiple armed robberies. A mistaken identity case which was eventually resolved, however my ill feelings at that time for the police weren’t. I felt entitled for a sincere apology, which never happened.
I remember a family member of mine, a black professional man, challenged me one day as I vented my story of my arrest. He abruptly pointed out my attire, “Look at how you’re dressed, you stop looking like a thug you might find the police will stop treating you like one.” He basically was telling me that I was attracting what I was profiling. I admit I did not want to hear that at that time, but the bluntness of his words resinated deep within me, to the point where I was unable to shake it out of my psyche. It eventually compelled me to start the process of truthfully analyzing my belief system, by having a conversation with myself. When I started viewing the situation from the big picture, I begun to see clear as day some irrational beliefs and logic trapped within my thought process.
When I really honestly thought about it, without saying it, my friends and I were trying to look like thugs and criminals. Why? Because many of the rappers we seen on the videos and in the magazines were. It was apparent that they had the riches and the pretty girls while profiling themselves to be criminals and thugs, so naturally we made it our goal to have the pretty girls profile us as criminals and thugs. Through this new progressive movement that was being promoted by the entertainment industry in the late 80’s, many girls were becoming more and more attractive to the thug. Videos like Janet Jackson’s “Nasty Boy”, was conveying to my peer group, that pretty girls were bored with the clean cut school boy, and they were now looking for the “rough neck” with an impressive criminal portfolio. I discuss this in detail in my book Thug Mentality Exposed.
Now at the time none of us would have verbally said that we wanted to look like criminal and thugs, because then we would look like wannabees, right? No body wants to be a wannabee. But the truth was, we were. Now I was brought up with good values, was no angel, but I had a healthy fear of God, border line average student and I had been goal orientated to be a photojournalist since the age of fifteen. However going through this phase, sparked by the music industry, my friends and I still wanted to look like thugs and criminals in order to look intimidating, which we believed would also earn us instant respect from our peer group and any rival peer groups.
Now back to that conversation I was having with myself:
I asked myself? “ Is it wise to look intimidating to other peer groups? My new answer after analyzing it was “No”. Intimidation can put others on the defense immediately, through fear, which can instigate a violent and even deadly situation. I’ve had numerous individuals from my peer group as a youth get seriously injured, incarcerated and even killed from utilizing intimidation tactics which got out of control.
Then I asked myself, “ Do I really want a girlfriend who wants a boyfriend as a thug?” Why would I want to be with an individual who admires and is attracted to a thug or gangster who prides and boasts of themselves for being one or all of the following: law breaker, thief, drug dealer, substance abuser, gang member, cruel, heartless, pimp, player, abusive, robber and killer? I came to the conclusion that it would be illogical to want to be with a girlfriend who admired and embraced a guy with the above corrupt and immoral values. If I married her, would these be the type of values I would want taught to our children?
And lastly, I would ask myself “ What would I have to gain emulating the diabolical traits of gangster entertainers? In my heart, I knew I would never permit my daughter to date individuals with this character, so why would I want to emulate such behavior. My answer to the question, nothing, but negative consequences and a contaminated conscience.
Again here I was trying to profile myself as a thug and a criminal, however I was deeply angered and offended by law enforcement and security for them profiling me as a thug and criminal. Law enforcement trains their recruits starting at the academy the skill-set of identifying trait profiles of the criminal nature for the purpose of safeguarding the public’s safety.
My final analysis, I was attracting what I was profiling. I was profiling exactly what law enforcement were trained to be attracted to. Therefore I made a decision to start the transformation of changing my personal profile, starting with my clothing then gradually distancing myself from some members of my peer group.
The impact of my transformation was fast and effective. My view and encounters with law enforcement did almost a 180 degree change from negative to positive. Now this does not negate my belief that there are some officers who profile others with immoral motives and preconceived beliefs, thus responding on those they have profiled with unprofessional and immoral behavior. Regardless of the laws and our constitution this is often an uncontrollable factor. Meaning when an injustice like this happens, one can only seek justice after.
The fact is, immoral people manipulate there way in all forms of employment, including law enforcement. Should we report it, absolutely, but how can individuals attempt to safeguard themselves from negative profiling by law enforcement? In my personal life, I discovered the most effective way, was to remove myself as far as I could from the equation. Again that meant if I’m being profiled as a thug, stop dressing, walking and wearing hairstyles like a thug.
I have since gained a mature understanding that just like everyday civilians, you have good law enforcement and you have bad ones. I don’t believe it’s fair to paint in red the immoral and or illegal actions of those operating unethically outside the system, on the entire system.
I hear my old words being reverberated through the youth and young adults I work with today. As the thug and gangster culture continues to become more popular and imbedded in fashion, such as sagging pants, prison culture tattoos and radical, attention seeking  hair styles, it’s often getting more and more difficult to get them to see the big picture. Many are clueless that their participation in this culture is profiling them out of the job market. Thus brining discouragement, which often eventually leads them into unhealthy, unproductive  and criminal behavior.
My mission is to convey to the youth that “we attract what we profile”, for example: If I want a job in a professional work place with professional pay, then I’m going to the interview dressing, speaking and presenting myself professionally. A professional company is profiling for prospects who are professional to hire.
We all profile for relationships, whether for friendships or marriage. We desire to fit the profile of the one we are attracted to, in a hopeful attempt that they might be attracted to us. One might utilize attire, hairstyle, cologne or perfume to attempt to cultivate that attraction, in order to fit within the profile the other individual is desiring.
Have in mind that criminals are always profiling for victims, such as a pimp is profiling for traits that will make a submissive prostitute, gang members are profiling for rivals to victimize or profiling to recruit new gang members.
Having knowledge and an understanding of what others are profiling for, can make the difference of being the victim or the victor. Sadly many innocent non-gang related individuals have been killed by wearing the wrong color, in a rival gang’s neighborhood, due to they were profiled as being from a rival gang. Bottom line, we must pray to God for wisdom, so we can be mindful of what we profile in every area of life, because “we will attract what we profile.”
By Rayford L. Johnson
Director & Founder of ThugExposed.Org/Author of Thug Mentality Exposed