Ingroup/Outgroup Behavior: Profiling and Power

Ingroup/Outgroup Behavior: Profiling and Power

Ingroup/Outgroup behavior is seen in every culture, and in every period of history.  When people are in our outgroup, we perceive them even as less than human (example the One Drop rule, and the 3/5ths law).  When they are harmed or hurting, we feel no pain.  We don't miss them, or even notice when they are gone, they are invisible, inconsequential and threatening when they insist on being part of our world.  When someone is paart of our ingroup, we feel pain when they feel pain, we feel discomfort, and even pain when they are missing from us, and we feel the personal insult when they are harmed.  This explains the behavior of the teenagers and the officer at the McKinney,Texas pool.  The stressed officer felt threatened enough by a goup of black teenagers to manhandle one 15 girl in a bikini (as if she were an animal), and to pull his gun on other unarmed teenage young men who were invited to the party.  Watch the whole video to see the fear, panic, and threat that often gets out of hand between outgroup members . . . especially when thre is a power differential.

She was a young beautiful woman, mother of three elementary school age children, and a third grade teacher on a road trip with her husband, a State Highway Patrol officer.  Yet they were pulled over, questioned and detained until the drug dogs arrived and while their three little girls sat terrified in the back seat.  

A beautiful young woman, mother of three, 3rd grade teacher who just happens to be Latina told this story during our first meeting of the Crucial Cultural Conversations:

While driving on a family trip to Kansas City, her husband was pulled over by a state trooper recently. With their three young children in the car, they were accused of smuggling drugs to Chicago. They were prevented from continuing their trip, detained, and aggressively questioned for quite awhile. The drug dogs were called to the scene while the officer repeatedly insisted they show him where the drugs were. The children were terrified, the parents desperately tried to explain that she is a 3rd grade teacher, and he (husband) a Highway Patrol officer in our area. The dogs found no drugs.

The family finally convinced the officer to call to verify the employment of his fellow public servant. When the call came confirming his employment claims, the family was released to go. The officer told them “If you’d told me that in the first place we could have avoided all this.” This morning, I hugged my sister hard in the church lobby and told her we would pray for her safety as they hit the road again today for a family vacation.

This is an example of outgroup behavior. The officer profiled this family because of their appearance as Latinos who he presumed to be drug smugglers. The officer didn't even realize he was harassing a member of his own brotherhood of public servants. I have received permission fromTania Cardenas to share her story to help you understand the threatening and frightening many American People Of Color and Latino Americans find themselves in all too often.

The first key thing we need to know to be able to treat each other humanly, have successful business interactions, get along with our diverse neighbors, and especially to have satisfying friendships and long term relationships, with other "types" of people than yourself is the concept of Ingroup/Outgroup behavior.

Ingroup/Outgroup behavior – Researchers and social scientists have identified a phenomena in every culture known as ingroup/outgroup behavior. Our brains are programmed to sort information by some key visual cues such as color, size and type. This is what makes it impossible and untrue when an individual claims “I don’t see color.” That is as ridiculous as someone telling me they don’t notice I am a female. Whether we realize it or not, we subconsciously identify people and people groups with whom we are not familiar as either ingroup or outgroup members. Knowing this, an intelligent person becomes aware of their own outgroup thoughts, and begins to examine his/her feelings and behavior when encountering outgroup members.

It was outgroup thinking that silenced otherwise good German people during Hitler’s reign of terror against the Jewish people.

It was outgroup thinking that silenced and severed the consciences of the founding fathers, lawmakers, community leaders, business people, Church leaders and many people claiming to be “Christians” through our American history which permitted the violent and dehumanizing systems required to maintain the American form of slavery . . . agreed by most historians to be the most vicious and heinous form of slavery, and the only kind that was completely based on the concept of “race.”

It was outgroup thinking that inspired the 3/5ths law, and the One Drop rule. The 3/5ths law counted black slaves as 3/5ths of a human for the purpose of census count and taxation of their “owners.” The One Drop rule established that if anyone was known or suspected to have even one drop of blood from African ancestery, that person could legally be enslaved.

It is outgroup thinking that leads to dehumanization of other people who are not familiar to us. The more visually distinct, and the more culturally distinct a person is, the easier it is for others to place the different one in the outgroup and then to justify bad behavior, unfair laws, and systematic racism or discrimination against that person. Because somehow either consciously or subconsciously, it is truly believed that that person is not truly, or fully human . . . therefore, it is possible to justify behaviors that would be unthinkable toward ingroup members.


Plan to come to the Springdale (AR) Country Club if you are in the area on 8/25/15, 9:30a.m. to learn more about our Muslim neighbors in just 6 days from now

My friend Fadil H. Bayyari will co-host our :Cultural Conversation" and help us understand how to be better neighbors, and friends with those who follow Muslim teachings.


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Dr. Angela Courage

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