I was stopped at a red light on my way home the other day when I was passed by a luxury vehicle going the opposite way. The vehicle was being driven by a thin, middle-aged white man with perfectly coiffed brown hair and he was wearing shades that looked to cost more than my entire outfit (which isn’t saying much since I’m not going to wear any classy clothes to work). He was wearing a very stylish business suit, and there were plenty more visibly hanging in the back seat of his car.
One thought entered my mind as this man drove right by me: douchebag. I immediately reprimanded myself for automatically assuming that this man was a pompous asshole simply because he’s wealthy. Or at the very least, for appearing wealthy.
I had just stereotyped that man. I did it without even thinking about it. While it’s true he could be an insufferable snob, he might not be. I’ve met plenty of well-off people who were arrogant pricks. Most of them I’ve encountered while working. Working in IT you meet quite a lot of people who are paid way too much for doing far too little, and they’re often drunk on their own power. They’re arrogant and they talk down to people. And when they’re computer isn’t working just the way they want it…look out. However, I’ve met plenty of other wealthy folks who were as nice as they could be. There are some who are gracious and patient. I had to remind myself (again) not to judge by appearance. It’s natural to do, I guess, but I’ve been trying to be more mindful about it because I HATE STEREOTYPES.
It really sandpapers my balls (shout out to Rants) when people assume things about me because I’m white. Or because I’m a man. Or because I’m American. Or because I’m in IT (though I am a Star Wars geek−weird). Or any other reason one would assume something about me. So when I do it I get really upset with myself. It was a knee-jerk reaction, but I should still know better.
They say there’s some truth for every stereotype, but I think I’m going to call bullshit on that. Every person is unique and the way each person behaves is crafted by a mixture of genetics and how that person is raised. A person’s behavioral traits are not determined by their skin color, gender, religion, or sexual orientation. We’re all a product of our environment, not our labels.
I was torn from my reverie when the light eventually turned green. As I continued on my way home, I licked the wounds from the self-inflicted tongue-lashing I had just administered. It takes time to change the way you innately react to things. I’ve taken some small steps, but I still have a long way to go. At least I’m to the point now where I realize what I’ve done is wrong. Not long ago I wouldn’t have had a second thought about assuming that man was a prick.