With the events of the past few weeks surrounding the tragedy of Trayvon Martin, we may be reminded of what we truly see when we judge others by their appearance. When it comes to the cultural diversity of people who come in every color, gender, and size and a host of other differences, many are heard saying “when I look at other people, I don’t see color but who they are as a person”. How many times have we heard this among our friends or in diversity training programs?
On matters relating to diversity some may not “see color” or use color of skin as a determining factor in how they interact with someone, however, everyone must admit that when they initially encounter another person, they unconsciously judge them based on their own biases. These biases are simply based on our own set of values and stereotypes we have about other people. If we encounter someone we don’t know who represents a racial or ethnic group with whom we are unfamiliar we will resort to the stereotype we hold for this group and project that on to the individual.
These stereotypes may be positive or negative. Have you ever crossed the street when you are confronted with someone that fits a negative stereotype that you might have? What did they look like? What was their race or gender? How were they dressed?
Often we respond with our own unconscious biases. What are the stereotypes that you have of a person who is dressed in a “hoodie”? Does your perception of the individual change if the race of the person changes? What if the same individual is dressed in a business suit? How does that affect how you perceive the person?
Get in touch with your own cultural biases. What stereotypes do you have that can be harmful to how you might perceive other people? How does this affect how you perceive yourself? You may be surprised about what you learn.