We are most of us guilty of profiling people, at least part of the time. You hear something about somebody's political or social views, you stick 'em into a pigeonhole: Well, yeah, he's one of those ________idiots, what you can expect?
As if you are limited to one viewpoint about everything, right down the line. Can't be for the Second Amendment and the ACLU? Why not? It's not okay to like vanilla and chocolate ice cream equally? Against the war, but for the troops?
We aren't all knee-jerk whatevers all the time.
Here's a scenario for you, look at it, and respond as honestly as you can:
You are walking home one evening from the 7-Eleven with some chips and salsa to go with the beer you plan to drink while you watch the ball game. You look up and see two teenagers coming toward you on the sidewalk.
Now, let's split the frame:
On the left, the two teenagers are young men with neatly-groomed short haircuts. Clean-shaven, they wear short-sleeved white dress shirts and ties, slacks, and they have in their hands books, and they bear small backpacks. You know what they are: Elder Orson and Elder Brigham, out on their missionary work.
On the right, two young men with shaved heads, three pounds of shiny hardware in their ears, noses, lips and eyebrows. Wife-beater T's, full tattoo sleeves on both arms, dirty and baggy jeans and Doc Martin boots. They have truckers' wallets with looped chains shoved into their pockets.
Which pair are you more worried about?
(Yeah, yeah, I know, some of you are going tell me you are more concerned with getting the Joseph Smith lecture about the golden pages than being mugged for your beer, but stay with me for a bit.)
Would it make a difference if they were black and dressed in gangsta chic? If they were young women? Latino? Asian? Middle Easterners in traditional garb? Wearing turbans?
If it does, then you are profiling. There's nothing intrinsically wrong with the idea, although you could be completely wrong in your assumptions.
Orson and Brigham there could be a couple of muggers who picked disguises to put people at ease. Knowing that people who see them probably won't jump right to the notion of danger.
Adolph and Benito could be actors on their way to a community theater where they are playing punk-rock singers in a musical comedy version of Sid and Nancy.
Tyrone and James might be honor society suburban wanna-be's trying to look tough so they can get laid.
Or not. They all might be exactly what they purport to be. But assuming anything about them based on your notion of judging books by their covers might be a large mistake.
The psycho killer Ted Bundy used to wear a cast, to convince people he was harmless. Those who bought it sometimes wound up dead.
If you are a cop or some kind of public or private operative, you probably have been told to pay attention to clues other than just looks, and to build a more complete picture, yea or nay. If one pair is openly carrying clubs, knives, or guns, one should probably take that into consideration. (Although when I was in our high school production of Oklahoma!, a car full of us dressed as cowboys and packing real six-guns loaded with blanks got pulled over by the police our way back from doing a promo on local TV show. We told them who we were, and they just let us go. Different times, the early sixties ...)
The notion of wolves in sheep's clothing (or vice-versa) goes way back, every writer I know knows how to milk this one.
Just more food for thought ...