When I first discovered what we were supposed to be writing about this week, I was not excited. That hasn’t changed. Therefore, I apologize in advance for any lack of enthusiasm that will be exposed too from this post. My main lack of excitement for this subject is simply because I think people get too focused on it. This subject distorts people’s vision of the world, and the negativity involved in this area is too frustrating. This subject is too concentrated on subjective experiences, preconceived notions, generalizations, and assumptions that I prefer not to dwell on it. And it is easy for me to restrain from worrying about gender and racial issues mainly because I am a white male, so I admit that my own perspective is riddled from the lack of subjective experiences I have had. Also, I do feel awful for those individuals who have experienced the sting of false racial or gender biases. However, focusing on the philosophical side of such an issue innately turns me off.
To put it simply, I don’t care. I don’t care if someone is black, white, yellow, or green, male, female, or androgynous, or tall or small or skinny or fat. Each and every one of us is living our own life, with different backgrounds, experiences, demographics, interests, and talents. Therefore, we should all make the best effort possible to appreciate one another for what we bring to the table. Do we have to like everyone? Nope. But how can you truly rationalize to yourself that you have any negative (or positive for that matter) opinion about who an individual is simply based on his or her appearance?
Anyone reading this is correctly bashing me about how this is not possible, and they are completely correct. It has been psychologically proven that we have been conditioned to associate white people with positive attributes more than black people. We implicitly assume that attractive individuals have better characteristics than unattractive individuals. All of these implicit assumptions have developed over years of exposure to media, access to other people’s beliefs, and even our personal experiences. So, although the odds seemed to be stacked against judging each and every person for who they are as individuals, should we simply give up and accuse one another for false presumptions? I think not. I believe that simply acknowledging these implicit associations allows us to take a step back and re-evaluate our personal judgments. Understanding that we do assume characteristics depending on physical appearance allows us to disassociate from these assumptions and attempt to look at one another for who we are as individuals.
In my polly-pocket world, people would hold off any judgments until getting to know an individual, while expecting the same courtesy from this person. Therefore, we would never have to worry about what another person is assuming correctly or incorrectly based on our appearance, and we do not have to remain stuck in this negative reasoning. Still the fact remains, people dress certain ways, carry themselves around with certain dispositions, and generally exude certain emotions, so holding off on judgments may seem impossible. Again, acknowledging this is the first step to meeting this person with an objective viewpoint.
When discussing this perspective with a friend of mine, he reacted with fits of laughter (I can’t blame him). He immediately asked me, “So, when you walk down a dark alley in New York City and see a black man walking towards you with some ‘swag,’ you won’t mentally prepare yourself for an altercation?” I couldn’t help but agree with him. I have heard plenty of unfortunate stories from friends about events occurring in the late hours of New York City. However, I think I will be just as scared to see a big, white, Russian man walking towards me in that same alley. And he may be just as scared to see me be walking towards him. Sometimes these assumptions are not made about the specific individual who we are coming into contact with, but they are made because of the prevailing environment surrounding this specific circumstance. We must always remember that these feelings represent the entire atmosphere surrounding us. After acknowledging this, I may even offer this big, white, Russian man a stick of gum, and break down his implicit assumptions as well.