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What is the difference between profiling and stereotyping?

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Profiling is the practice of identifying people who are more likely to be involved in criminal activity. Stereotyping is the practice of assuming (without an attempt to check your facts) that certain characteristics attach to certain types of people. The problem comes when profiling is done on the basis of inaccurate stereotypes. For example, after September 11, there were many people who argued that persons of Arab ancestry should be targeted for extra scrutiny at airports. The idea was that Arab Americans were more likely to be Muslim. And that Muslims were more likely to be violent extremists. In fact, most Arab Americans are Christians -- about 70% or so. They came to the United States in order to get away from persecution precisely because they are not Muslim. The overwhelming majority of Muslim Americans aren't Arab, they're black. But black Muslims are such a small percentage of the African American community overall that you can't use that racial characteristic as a basis for ... more
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