July 25, 2024

Why we judge people by appearances

This archived article was written by: Leland Lobato

I was standing outside of a grocery store waiting for my sister to finish whatever it was she was doing that seemed to take a few years. Here comes a fellow descendant of those born around the time when the Spanish first explored the new world and, to put it lightly, started mating with the natives. For those who do not read between the lines, this person was of Mexican descent. He comes up to me and starts speaking Spanish, a language that I do not speak except for cuss words, but that doesn’t count because everybody knows how to swear in another language. For those who do not know who I am, my facial features are indicative of my ethnicity, for want of a better term. At this point in the conversation I am trying to explain in English, why I do not speak Spanish to someone who speaks almost no English. Needless to say, we were having technical difficulties. In the end I told him to go down two lights, make a left, go three streets farther and it should be on the right hand side of the street. Then I left.
This happens to me often, even though I know English is my only language, it seems that many people somehow missed that memo. It makes me wonder how many Black people, or for the sake of political correctness, African Americans, get asked if they speak Swahili, Luba, or Shona which are all languages spoken in Africa. I would be willing to bet not that many. How many white people, or Anglo/Caucasian, get asked if they speak German, Welsh or Swedish? I am not going to say anything about Asians. This is an example of things that happen to me on a regular basis. I will not even get into how often I get approached by people wanting to know about whether or not I want drugs or know where any are. People see me and decide that I know about that sort of thing. I have no right to say anything about those people that are asking me these questions because, more often than not, I look at them and think they look like the sort of people who would cheat on their girlfriend/boyfriend, or something else along those lines. They are poor or on welfare, etc. I do not know and really do not care. Mostly I want to tell them to buy toothpaste instead of drugs.
Now think about this for a moment. How many times do any of us go out and about, see some random individual, and leap to some kind of conclusion about their personality or character based upon what we see in just those few short seconds? Example: The tall kid over there must play basketball or that guy wearing female pants is either homosexual or in a hurry when he left his girlfriends place. Look at that woman’s cleavage, she must put out. Hey, that Mexican guy must speak Spanish, etc.
If we are at all honest with ourselves I would be willing to bet that the answer to that question is all of the time. But why do we do it? Is it because we have to categorize people, or fit them into some kind of classification system? Who knows, we just do. I try not to when I see or meet someone for the first time, but every now and again I just leap to a conclusion about that person. Sometimes I am right, sometimes wrong. The fact that I make those kinds of judgments at all is wrong.
This is not only a local phenomenon, it happens all over America. So much so that studies have be done on the subject. A recent poll taken about appearance based discrimination in the workplace produced these results.
•39 percent said employers should have the right to deny employment to someone based on appearance, including weight, clothing, piercing, body art, or hair style.
•33 percent said that in their own workplace, workers who are physically attractive are more likely to be hired and promoted.
•33 percent said workers who are unattractive, overweight, or generally look or dress unconventionally, should be given special government legal protection such as that given persons with disabilities.
•Of the 39 percent who said employers should have the right to deny employment based on looks, men outnumbered women 46 percent to 32 percent while whites outnumbered nonwhites 41 percent to 24 percent.
•Those having personal experience with the matter produced this information. Almost 16 percent said they had been the victim of appearance-based discrimination.
•Of those, 38 percent said the discrimination was based on their overall appearance while 31 percent said it was their weight and 14 percent said it was a reaction to their hairstyle.
•33 percent of those saying they had been discriminated against said it was for some other reason.
Ideally we should just be open to new people and ideas so when we meet someone, let them show us who they are. Unfortunately that is not the way things work out. Everybody has that friend who upon meeting somebody at the same time as you that will make comments about them, usually after this individual has left. “I can’t believe they dress like that,” or “what is with that hair” are among some of the comments I have heard and said in these situations. If you do not have a friend like this then you probably are that person.
I do not like that when I make these assumptions about others, and laugh when they are made about me. Because you never can tell what another person is going to be like.
Many of the people I have known, and regularly associate with, for at least a year are to this day surprising me with different aspects of their personalities. You never know what any given person is like. Everybody deserves a chance to show that they are either a good person or not, that they are smart or stupid, and don’t worry if you do leap to some kind of conclusion about a person you meet, you are only human after all. That is my excuse.