Affluent college students set up tents, cardboard boxes and crates on private property housed in their makeshift “shanty town,” as a protest against the plight of homeless people. Living outdoors for a night – food, toilets and police protection readily available – this camping offers protection for a night spent in full view of the public.
A ragtag group of people huddles under a highway bridge, cars thundering overhead, setting up tents and a few belongings. They are waiting out a storm. It will likely be a few days before the rain finally stops, so they are grateful for the protection and a measure of privacy in a public place.
The first group will pass the night in relative calm after the TV cameras leave. The second group will be invaded by police, issuing citations before forcing them back into the storm to look for some other shelter, possibly leading to more tickets. Both situations describe people creating their own shelter. The reason they are treated so differently is economic profiling. Like other forms of profiling – targeting individuals for suspicion because of their race, faith or nationality – economic profiling uses the appearance of poverty as a basis of suspicion.