What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you see a drug addict? When we meet new people, we all try to sum up their character based on what we already know about their race, their nationality and other parts of their identity. So when you meet a drug addict, you may naturally think of mental illness, crime, lack of hygiene, disease. And when you meet a supermodel you may guess that they have a superficial perspective on life, they over-diet, and maybe they even smoke. We all do that. We use what we already know to try and guess what the people we meet will be like.
But the problem is that a lot of times, we judge people unfairly because of this natural tendency to assess their character based on our previous knowledge. When we interact with people, we tend to notice and pay attention to the traits that agree with what we already know, and we ignore the things that don’t. So you may notice that the clothes of that drug addict are full of spots and smudges, but you may brush away the fact that he seems to treat everybody ever so kindly and to speak with wisdom. Later on you will also tend remember the parts of him that were in line with your stereotypes, and you will forget his wisdom and kindness. And in that way, you won’t let him show you the better side of his character, you won’t see his uniqueness.
And, the stereotypes and prejudices we hold about people cause us to treat people differently and unfairly. The Americans seem to be very familiar with the grave problems that can be caused this and we can see that in racially disparate policing that seems to be happening over there. A large percentage of the American police seems to be of the opinion that all young black men are violent criminals, and because of that, black men are constantly suffering brutal and unfair treatment from the police.
And we can see the same kind of unfair treatment among the general public too. If you’re the landlord of an apartment and you find out the person trying to rent it is a convicted felon, you will immediately decide not to let this person into your property without giving him the chance to show you his true character. If a white man in his mid-fifties tells you, “Whenever someone insults you, don’t insult them back. Enlighten them instead,” you will take that advice to heart and consider applying it in your life. If it comes from a black girl living in Africa, you will probably dismiss it as some “wanna-be smart talk”. (Side-note: Check the about page…)
People deserve to be judged individually. When you meet someone new, try to keep an open mind and let them show you who they really are before you make conclusions about their character. Teach yourself to judge every man as you find him and to not always rely on what you already know about certain groups of people. That way, you may get to cherish and appreciate the uniqueness of all human beings.
And as always, cheers to life!