Monday, March 2, 2015 | By: Angela Brown

Evergreen in Action - Yes, You May Be Prejudiced if...

...you ever held or do hold a preconceived idea or notion, typically about something you haven't actually experienced for yourself.

Scenario: You walk into a restaurant. At the first table you see someone that is somewhat obese. You guess their weight at around 300 pounds, and they're munching down on this:
They may have a large drink with it to wash it all down.

Be honest: A) Did you think that maybe that person should have chosen something different because they're fat already OR B) did you think that maybe what they had was what you might consider getting, no thoughts whatsoever about their size?

If you thought A, guess what, you aren't alone and you aren't a bad person for it.

Having some misconceptions is a sad but true part of being a human being. We're social creatures and learn that way as well. If you never knew or interacted with a black person growing up in your town, and the only exposure you've had to any black person at all is from watching the NFL, NBA, rap songs, rap videos, or some "reality TV show" including blacks in the cast, what kind of view can you be expected to have?

Personal example: As a kid, my mom watched the show Dallas all the time. And sometimes, I watched it with her. There was lots of money, ranches, cowboy hats, and cowboy boots. I hadn't visited Dallas and had my naieve preconceived ideas that every person in Dallas had the same thing.
A conversation with my mom helped me adjust my perspective, and also understand why JR looked just like the guy from I Dream of Jeannie lol!

That is a minor example but it shows that misconceptions and/or preconceptions can form various ways and at an early age. Having them isn't so much the issue...

It's what you choose to do/don't do about the misconception and your interactions with others that makes the difference.

When you walk in that restaurant and see that overweight person eating a hefty meal, it may not be a good idea to walk over and tell them they should eat better. Why? Because the person could have just lost 50 pounds and this is their celebration meal, or perhaps it is their cheat day for their new eating lifestyle.

The woman that sits down at a table near you wearing a light-thread material over her head isn't automatically a terrorist Muslim. She could be wearing something over her head to help shield against the sun.

We may learn prejudices, but do they have to remain? What are some ways to possibly unlearn a preconception?

~Start the conversation.~

30 comments:

Natalie Aguirre said...

I'm really into eating healthy right now so I would have thought A for sure. But you're right, the person may have been celebrating losing weight or another accomplishment. We shouldn't judge.

Catherine Stine said...

Hey, interesting post! Well, as a writer, i always write against the norm, the stereotype. In doing so, I feel that truth on a deep level.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I agree with Natalie - I eat healthy, so A would've been my first thought. (Now if I see that person do that on a regular basis, is it all right to still think that?)
I'm blessed I was a military brat and we moved around a lot. I was exposed to many different people and cultures. I don't tend to notice race or color anymore. We're all just people.

Dianne K. Salerni said...

I think most people make assumptions about people based on their appearance -- race, clothes, tattoos, size, cleanliness -- as well as the behavior we see -- eating an unhealthy meal, smoking, talking loud, quietly reading a book, yelling at the cashier ...

Rejecting those pre-conceptions is something I work very hard at. I can think of two people off the top of my head who I disliked on our first meeting because their behavior made me pre-judge their personality. Upon spending more time with them, I realized how wrong I was and what wonderful people they actually were.

shelly said...

Good post! I think we need to put ourselves in other peep's shoes for the most part. Try to see where they're coming from.

Karen Jones Gowen said...

Getting to know people is the best way I have of undoing my misconceptions. Seeing someone from afar makes judging easier than sitting down with them and having a conversation.

Angela Brown said...

It wasn't until I really made an effort to stop passing judgment that I realized how judgmental I could be at times. Really has helped me see many things from different perspectives.

Angela Brown said...

Very cool, Catherine.

Angela Brown said...

I am a hefty sized girl and I would have gone with A. If I saw them eating unhealthy on a regular basis, I think I'd chock that up to praying they are eating that way b/c they want to and not b/c they hate themselves and can't help it.

Angela Brown said...

That is so very true, Dianne :-)

Angela Brown said...

The world would be such a better place if more peeps did that, Shelly. Hugs!

Angela Brown said...

Okay, that is taking it pretty deep there, Karen. And so true.

Gwen Gardner said...

I'd probably think both A and B, LOL. We all have preconceived notions. It's all part of processing information. Do I see color? Of course I do. I'm not blind. I grew up in a multicultural environment, though. As kids, we played together and had fun. That's where my frame of reference comes from.

Maria Zannini said...

Many years ago, I met a friend of Greg's. He was scary and big, covered in tattoos, scars, and scowls, but he was the sweetest, gentlest man I ever knew. Looks are deceiving. Once I knew him, I was no longer afraid.

Of course, it goes the other way too. There are some very 'nice-looking' people that are just plain evil. Getting to know them could be dangerous.

Angela Brown said...

You know, Gwen, one's frame of reference is such a big part in perceptions and misconceptions.

Angela Brown said...

I know what you mean, Maria. I've met some people who you never would have suspected had such evil inside of them yet have met some of the most gentle giants miscontrued as otherwise because they look like "big, bad, biker guys."

Anonymous said...

Very lovely, thought provoking post Angela! By the way I am currently reading Beacon :)

I can not stand judging a book by its cover, why should I do that to human beings? You gave clear examples of people any of us may have preconceived notions about, but it could shift in another direction.

Personally, I'd like to see more African/African American women in action and sci/fi movies and on the front covers of books. Not because I am militant or anything crazy like that, but because I like variety and television, rap shows and videos cast us as bitter and angry and having no education, and the world expects this of us.

I am so glad that I surround myself with positive people of all races and backgrounds, weight, eye color, etc. Love knows no prejudice.

Things we can do is simply suspend judgment until after we speak with that person. Or better yet...

Why judge at all?

Thanks!

Angela Brown said...

You pose some some thought-provoking things in your comments. There is a mountain top I felt I was on for a long time, screaming from it about some of what you mention.

By the way, I hope you enjoy Beacon :-) Thank you for taking the time to read it.

dolorah said...

I think everyone has pre-concieved notions about the world. As you say, you have to experience diversity to understand it. The best way to overcome those biases is to interact with people, get to know them.

This was a thought provoking, sensitive post Angela. Glad you brought up the subject.

Angela Brown said...

Thanks, Donna. We can't make any progress without the conversation.

Barbara Ann Wright said...

Having been a big girl all my life, I try not to judge things like that. Even when I was at my healthiest and constantly going to the gym and eating right, I still looked overweight because of a medical condition. I taught me a lot about not judging others.

Angela Brown said...

I know we have judges for making legal rulings, but I sometimes wonder what the world would be like if we sought to understand each other instead of immediately passing judgment. My brain hasn't been able to conceptualize it.

Cathrina Constantine said...

Probably A, at first. Though, I would've been drooling at the sight of that tasty burger and fries!

Elizabeth Seckman said...

I can't believe people even think it's any of their business what people eat. It's total arrogance as far as I'm concerned.

As for racial stereotypes, my second son, when he was younger, always wanted to be black. You know how some kids want to be firefighters or policeman? Cole wanted to be a black man. My poor red haired, lily white child was crushed when I explained to him that no matter how hard he worked, he could never be black.

To him, the men he most admired were athletes who also happened to be black. So in his mind, the key to the success was in the color of the skin. Now, that's inaccurate thinking and still a stereotype, but it's far more positive than the stereotypes of fifty years ago, so as a parent, I didn't panic, but he now understands you don't have to look like your heroes to strive to be like them.

Angela Brown said...

Same here, Cathrina :-)

Angela Brown said...

Our minds are so impressionable as kids. And I guess I shouldn't be surprised by what Cole thought then. Especially when you have movies like White Men Can't Jump, a title that leaves itself open to all kinds of retorts. Now I can't help wondering how many more young men of Asian descent would get into football and basketball if there were more examples like Dat Ngyuen (no longer playing football, I don't think) and Yao Ming.

Christine Rains said...

A very thought-provoking post. Judging about eating habits isn't one of the things I do since I'm so rotten about my own eating habits. Yet I know I'm guilty of other preconceived notions. The best way to combat it is through experience and education. You can't know what is going on with another person until you walk in their shoes.

Georgianna said...

As a child I had several good friends that lived down the street, they were black and while I knew that I really didn't care, they were my friends and I like them. They had spring chickens and ducks and I liked to visit and play. I came home one afternoon and my father's mother had a little talk with me about how those weren't my kind of people and I shouldn't go there or have them for friends. I cried, and never liked my grandmother after that...lost almost all respect for her. I've had black friends -- who btw - are just my friends as far as I'm concerned ever since. I never really visited or cared to see my grandmother much after that. I have four grandchildren from a b/w marriage of my oldest daughter...no the marriage didn't work out, but I love the kids dearly! My youngest is also in a mixed marriage and I absolutely love my son-in-law and his family!
Every person has a journey set before them, I don't know what anyone else's journey is about, I have enough trouble seeing my own way...so I try very hard to get to know people for themselves and yes, there are a few people I don't like - but not many!

Arlee Bird said...

I eat rather poorly and could stand to lose a few pounds. If I were to see that person in the restaurant my thought might be more toward me watching my own diet.

My father was a very open and receptive person to all kinds of people and was nice to everyone no matter who they were or what they looked like. I pretty well learned from him. One on one I'm fine with anybody who treats me right as well. My problem comes with the groups and movements who divide us in racial, religious, political, or whatever categories. People need to just get along as humans.

Arlee Bird
A to Z Challenge Co-host
Tossing It Out

Raelyn Barclay said...

Very thought-provoking Angela. Like Karen said, it's easy to judge from afar. I've always tried not to judge a "book" by its cover. I've tried to introduce the wee beasties to all walks of life and that you can't know someone until you've walked in their shoes.

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