During a SHTF or Other Emergency, Should We Prejudge Strangers?

   07.24.17

Is it fair to judge others without knowing who they are? In the case of becoming an active prepper it is probably not a bad idea to have a sense of prejudice against strangers especially during a SHTF event. Whether you bug in or bug out to an alternative escape site, you are likely to encounter others that may not have your best welfare in mind.

Turns out we may not be able to avoid it anyway, as the implicit bias behavior has apparently been learned and engrained in us early on in life. From a recent study released by the Yale Child Study Center, it appears that even preschool teachers have sometimes developed unconscious biases toward some classifications of students in the classroom.

This bias, I suspect is passed on however subliminally by both teachers and parents alike as we grow up whether meaning to or not, we are taught to be implicitly biased. Whether we are honest enough to admit it, we are all prejudiced against other people. It may the loud obnoxious drinker at a Christmas Party, or a sideline parent soccer coach that tries to bully the real coach as well as the players. It could be the street bump alcoholic that begs for change aka Seattle. It may be the “D” controlling personality at work, or a person of another race, religion, or preference that we do not automatically trust. You know who these people are and you just don’t like them. It is a behavior we may not be able to avoid or change.

A few weeks ago when I walked out of the front door of my home to walk the dog, a strange vehicle was sitting down the street. The two male occupants were Mexican. We do not have any Mexicans living on my street or in my neighborhood. We have many other races and creeds living here, but no Mexicans. What did I think? I automatically thought they did not belong here and might be up to something. I had implicit bias toward them.

Was my reaction to seeing these strangers parked outside my house unfair? Rude? Unkind? Perhaps. But was my reaction natural, cautious, pre-emptive, smart? I think so. I noted the truck but could not see the license plate, my error. I actually went back inside to pocket my Glock 43, but when I returned to the front porch only a couple of minutes later, the truck was gone. I have not seen it since anywhere in the neighborhood. Go figure. I believe to err on the side of caution in this day and age is only prudent.

So, admittedly, I had implicit bias against those two men, but smartly I think, I chose not
to inquire or confront them. Apparently my appearance alone scared them off. To my fault, I should have called 911 to report the incident, but did not, so that judgement on my part will be corrected in the future.

Just imagine then if you were in the midst of a full bore SHTF shut down. You hunker down at home, lock up, secure the property, ready your arms at entry ways, and strap on a defense pistol. You close all the blinds or otherwise try to darken the house using only minimal lighting at night. Outside movement is kept to a minimum until you fully assess the situation.

Now, several scenarios could play out. Maybe nothing will happen. Peace and security is restored in a day or two. Things go back to some kind of normal. Or, a knock comes at the door. You don’t recognize the person or maybe it is a neighbor from down the street that you really don’t know that well. They are asking, or even begging for help. What do you do?

Let’s get real. What if that person is of another race? What if they are obviously foreigners, maybe Middle Eastern in appearance? Are you going to tell me you are going to open the door and your home to complete or little known strangers in a time of peril? I don’t think so.

Go another step. What if the person is of your race, but he has other descriptors you do not favor? Maybe it is a skull tattoo on the arm or an anarchist t-shirt of some sort. Trust me your biases are going to kick in. Now, if much earlier, a year, or more, you have known this person to be an Army vet and he works in a warehouse driving a forklift for a living. His kids go to the school where your kids go. Then your reaction is likely to be much different. But why?

Now, maybe you see the difference. The latter guy you know as a neighbor. You have exchanged conversations with him before, maybe even shared a cookout or other activity. In fact, you know him well enough to trust him even under these stressful SHTF circumstances.

The lesson here for the bug in prepper then is to know your neighborhood and who lives there. In tough times, you may have to call on them. They will need to trust you. It may turn out that you can combine efforts or share resources to make it through the event. That alone is a comforting feeling.


Complete strangers, not-so-much. Idle wonderers during a SHTF, or roving bands of wannabe or real thugs cruising the streets looking for easy prey, aka The Purge. You are going to have to learn to treat these people differently and with prejudice.

The facets of situational awareness demand that preppers remain on their guards. This is never more the case than if you have to bug out. Then, you are entirely on your own with your biases and judgements of others. Caution and pre-caution are the strategies of the day.

You will virtually have to live with and by your implicit bias. It will be unavoidable. You must learn to make character assessments of anybody that you approach or ones that come to you. Fairness is not applicable. Security and self-preservation are.

Perhaps the best overall strategy for a bug out situation is to proceed to your designated location as quickly and safely as possible. Do this with no or minimal stops if possible. Avoid people, avoid stops, know you route or alternatives and stay focused. Do not be detoured. Once you are in place at your bug out site, then lock it down as well.

Implicit bias may not be politically correct by today’s standards, but being otherwise could get you or family killed. Conditions are heightened during a SHTF. So is stress, pressure, nervousness, and other unpleasant experiences. So, prep, plan, practice, execute and live. Forget about hurting somebody’s feelings if it means your survival.

Read More