This post (which is tangentially about Zimmerman, but worth the read even if you’re oversaturated) talks about the need to profile and being safe:
I used to tell my students to pay attention to their instincts. If you get a bad vibe off of somebody, for whatever reason, pay attention to it. That doesn’t make you rude, or a jerk, that is just you paying attention to survival instincts that have been built into the human species over millennia for a reason. If the person that made you nervous happens to be a different color than you, who cares? That doesn’t make you racist, and it doesn’t make you a bad person. It just means that they’ve made your survival instincts tingle. So pay attention.
So pay attention! Watch people. Watch for those visual, non-verbal clues that set off your survival instincts. If somebody makes you nervous, be prepared for something to happen, or try to move yourself out of the way. I call this common sense. Barack Obama calls it profiling, except for when DHS does it to veterans, because that’s just groovy.
But good people have been trained that judging others is bad! Violent criminals, especially those that specialize in preying on women, are aware of this, and they absolutely love it. The creepers and the stalkers and the would-be rapists take advantage of regular folk’s inclination to be polite. I’ve taught hundreds of female students, and many of them could personally cite some jackass taking advantage of their attempts to be polite, or if the woman stood up for herself (or clutched nervously at her purse and held her breath) they’d get some variation of “how come you gotta be such a bitch?”
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A lot of what he says is similar Gavin de Becker’s advice in The Gift of Fear and Protecting the Gift: Keeping Children and Teenagers Safe (and Parents Sane.) (affiliated links). I encourage every woman to read the first and every parent to read the second. Actually, just everybody read both.
And if you cross the street when you see me coming, I’ll know you aren’t being rude, you’re just understandably afraid.