• Nervous About Being Racially Profiled? You Aren’t Alone

    Long before the term “racial profiling” was coined, the concept ran rampant. Despite America’s promise of equality, there is still so much work to do. In the meantime, there’s just as much to do in the name of safeguarding the mental well-being of people of color (POC). Micro-aggressions can cause high levels of stress.

    Yes, even when the attack is subtle and even if the perpetrator is unaware of what they’ve done, the effect can be severe. It should come as no surprise that so many POC are nervous about being racially profiled. Why not? It’s common and its impact can be sustained.

    What Does “Racial Profiling” Mean?

    When a law enforcement official targets someone based on traits that the officer associates with criminal activity, this is profiling. Let’s make clear that more than a few kinds of profiling exist. For example, it can occur based on perceived religion, nationality, or sexual orientation. However, racial profiling happens most often.

    In other words, a POC is stopped, questioned, frisked, detained, arrested, or assaulted mostly because of the fact that they are a POC. The officer in question is suspicious of someone almost solely on their race. This tendency doesn’t automatically mean the law enforcement official is a racist. It does mean that official is behaving in a racist manner — sometimes unconsciously.

    Meanwhile, the person being profiled is being told that just the mere act of existing is enough to make them a potential suspect. These encounters can and sometimes do escalate and even become quite dangerous. Being a POC means you or someone you know has been profiled. Combine this with high-profile news coverage of such cases and you have a climate ripe for anxiety and fear.

    Other Forms of Racial Profiling

    It’s not possible to accurately monitor all cases of racial profiling. Victims may be afraid to report it or it’s just so common as to no longer be noteworthy. In some instances, it’s not totally clear what is happening. In addition, police officers are not the only ones who profile. A POC can be profiled in a wide variety of settings, e.g.

    • A medical professional may not take your complaints seriously
    • Your teacher could grade you differently
    • A real estate agent might guide you away from mostly white neighborhoods
    • You could get passed over for a promotion at work
    • Your non-POC friends may treat you like a stereotype

    Stereotype Threat

    It may not always get categorized as profiling but it’s real and far too common. A POC fears that whatever they do will serve to confirm existing stereotypes. They imagine that their peers see them more as a stereotype than the complex human they are. Stereotype threat can feel paralyzing. You might refrain from joining groups or participating in events or games. Left unchecked, you may internalize the stereotypes as true.

    Race-Related Stress

    This kind of anxiety can occur even if you mistook a circumstance for profiling. Such events occur frequently enough to see everything as a potential attack. Needless to say, such stress can cause many negative emotional symptoms like:

    • Anger
    • Low self-esteem
    • Paranoia
    • Isolation
    • Frustration
    • Resentment
    • Depression

    Race-related stress can inspire unhealthy coping choices (avoidance, self-medication, etc.) and it can all add up to physical health problems, too. When it comes to getting help, it starts with these three facts:

    • Your fear of racial profiling is valid
    • You are far from alone in this fear
    • You must address this anxiety in the name of your mental health

    I’d love to help you navigate these realities as you learn how to manage the related anxiety. Let’s connect and talk at your earliest convenience. Working with a black therapist who understands what you are feeling in anxiety therapy can be beneficial to you.