Last week, I came across this video via social media. In it, a ‘man clad in black’ springs up behind the actors, communicating negative ideas to the actors about other people based on stereotypes. And each time, the actors’ actions towards the victims are influenced by the ideas previously fed them (the actors) by the man in black; a woman who came into the store to buy milk of whom the man in black had inquired what she was up to was watched more closely by the storekeeper, and a young woman chose to stand in the bus rather than sit bedside a man who had made room for her. At the end of the video, the viewer is urged to Stop. Think. Respect.
The video was made to draw attention to how prejudices influence our judgment and actions towards other, and how unless we stop to think about it, we won’t know we unknowingly treat others with disrespect.
A day after I watched the video, I was walking by someone from a certain race and gender I feel uncomfortable with when he tried to make eye contact. My first impulse was to look away. However, remembering the video, I looked him in the eye and exchanged a harmless smile and smattering of greetings.
The following day, I walked into the bus and unconsciously decided I wasn’t going to take the first two empty seats I saw; one I passed because the person next to it I considered overweight, the other I passed because the gentleman next to it had a shoulder-length hair. After I found a seat next to someone I considered didn’t have ‘issues’, I remembered the video from the day before. I had never thought that I had such biases until I watched the video. As I sat in the bus fingering my rosary and crossing myself (taking the bus frees my hand to either read a book or say the rosary in the morning, among other benefits), I wondered if the person next to me, who could well be a Buddhist, would be wondering what the heck I was doing fingering beads and making gestures.
An incident from this week made me realize I may have forgotten the lessons from last week too soon. I entered the bus (Yea, I take them often, have been hoping to do a blog about that) and as there were no more seats, a middle-aged man sitting behind me gave up his seat for me which I took gratefully. Afterwards, I noticed he had well-manicured long nails. Then the ‘man clad in black’ made me question what the gentleman’s real motives were when he gave up his seat for me. Mind you, the gentleman never engaged me in any conversation till he exited the bus, yet his nails made me appreciate his kindness less. I have a certain prejudice against men who take good care of themselves.
When I took mediation classes, I learned that people can more readily stop racism, sexism etc if we make them understand them for what they really are: implicit bias. If we realize we all have prejudices, then we can STOP. THINK. and RESPECT more often. Because the truth is: ‘You can never judge a book by its cover’ ( Yea, the print of Adichie’s Americanah I read arguably had the most unattractive cover I have seen in a book, but the novel may well be my favorite book ever).
We all are unique in our own way and appreciating our diversity and cultural differences will help us enjoy one another more. So STOP. THINK. RESPECT.
Do you have biases? Have you ever caught yourself treating someone a certain way based on their looks? I’ll appreciate your comments below.