Profiling a part of daily life, from Tinder to the TSA

With over 1.5 billion profiles on the online dating service Tinder, it is likely that you have used this popular and effective dating tool at one point or another. In fact, I would be willing to bet after reading this article you will go right back to your phone and continue the process of sorting through the vast array of smiling mugs and flagrantly swiping right if hot and left if not. You will be actively engaged in the practice of profiling based on looks, and you won’t feel the least bit guilty about it. So I’m sure you’re not one of those people who are angrily crying foul at the new racial profiling law that still allows certain government agencies to continue its practice of racial profiling.

According to The Washington Post, the Obama administration will soon announce major changes to help prevent the practice of racial profiling by government officials and federal law enforcement agencies. However, the Department of Homeland Security will still be able to racially profile when screening airline passengers and while guarding the country’s southwestern borders. Essentially, the new law will exempt the Transportation Security Administration and the United States Customs and Border Protection.

While the new laws will dramatically build on former President George W. Bush’s ban on racial profiling in 2003 by covering not only race but also religion, sexual orientation and national origin, many critics are upset that it doesn’t extend to the TSA and border control agencies. Although racial profiling is inherently wrong, at the end of the day we are all guilty of it in one way or another. This is because, when time and resources are an issue, this method of quick assessment can sometimes be effective.

For example, when you gleefully flick away profiles on Tinder, you’re basing your right and left swipes on pictures that you find appealing. It’s unlikely you’re taking the time to look at each profile and read about that very special person with a heart of gold, unless of course that person happens to be extremely good-looking. You do this because you’re strapped for time and the odds are, the more attractive the person is, the more likely you are to get along with them initially.

That’s pretty much the same technique the TSA and Border Control use as a result of the very limited resources available to them. If you’re like me, you hate waiting in line to go through a security check at the airport. But imagine how long it would actually take and how ineffective it would be if the TSA took additional time to screen everyone who walked through the gates. While that doesn’t mean profiling is the most effective way of doing things, based on the money and manpower being dedicated to the TSA, right now it’s about as good as it gets.

In a perfect world, people who look like they are of Latino descent would not be harassed at the border. However when it comes to protecting the southwestern border of our country, it is simply more practical for our government to stop someone who looks like George Lopez than someone who looks like Napoleon Dynamite. The irony, of course, is that Lopez was born in California, which is why racial profiling is far from a perfect system.

That said, the fact of the matter is that it makes far more sense to profile people at the border or at the airport when dealing with the masses. This strategy is far from perfect, but then again it is a numbers game based on looks — which pretty much sums up the entire Tinder experience.

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