I’ve read so much about profiling – when another’s character, motivation, or worth is assumed by external characteristics like skin color, hairstyle, clothing, etc. It’s easy to condemn anyone who profiles. Yet it’s wired into our brains as a survival mechanism, and it’s overcome only with conscious effort. That’s because our ancestors had to quickly “profile” to determine levels of threat and ensure their personal survival. Given any hint of danger, that person was assumed to be malicious until proven otherwise. Trust came slowly.
Jesus encountered profiling. He didn’t meet the authorities’ expectations of a religious teacher. He didn’t act or speak as they wanted, nor offer them the deference they felt they “deserved.” They called him a glutton and a drunkard, and his message was dismissed outright.
I witnessed profiling in my hometown – an almost exclusively Catholic and Caucasian rural community. When our small-town hospital desperately needed a resident doctor and a Filipino answered the call, people were wary. He was even Catholic, yet many refused his services, driving 30 miles to the nearest alternative. His children were teased for their darker skin and “funny” accent. Eventually, the doctor’s competence and kind manners won over the town, but it took a long time. If he hadn’t filled a vital role, or if he’d been bold and outspoken, I doubt he ever would’ve been accepted. This incarnation of the healing power of Christ in our midst didn’t fit the rules of inclusion.
Profiling is rampant these days against those of a different political party or opinion, resulting in vicious attacks, name-calling, and rejection of persons themselves. Our church is splitting into “camps” of ideology and beliefs. School board meetings are blowing up (sometimes almost literally). Opportunities for housing, employment, and physical safety are deeply affected. Across the board, we’re becoming increasingly exclusionary, refusing to listen to, be around, or know each other.
This is clearly not what Jesus calls us to, nor a good model for discipleship. It needs to be rejected at all levels. I wish I could achieve that, but I can’t control others. What I can do is change myself, and awareness is the first step.
What am I saying to myself when I see someone begging for money or food? What are my assumptions about a person wearing a MAGA hat or an LGBTQ equality slogan? What do I believe I know about a Black or Latino person’s family and life? What runs through my head when I see a hijab, turban, or yarmulka?
I’m trying to do a better job of noticing and writing down my profiling of those who are not like me. Then I take those to prayer and ask the God who created all of us to open my mind and heart, to see them with the eyes of Christ, and to change not only my attitudes but my actions and reactions. They are, after all, my brothers and sisters whom I am called to serve.
This is my goal for Advent, a way for me to give birth to the Christ Child in my life. May I (and all of us) nurture the healing, inclusive, loving power of God in this fractured world.
Amy Florian is a teacher and consultant working in Chicago. For many years she has partnered with the Passionists. Visit Amy’s website: http://www.corgenius.com/.