On the Judgment of Strangers


Very seldom have I been in the circumstance of watching my predispositions toward strangers unfold exactly as I imagined them. In fact, almost religiously am I proven wrong, or at least predominantly misinformed every time I form my opinion about someone early. The dichotomy of my correct assumptions and my asinine prejudices is so divergent that I have to look at myself in the proverbial mirror and ask the question, "why do I do this?" 

Logically speaking, the practice of prejudice defies reason. If an investor is consistently incorrect in his presumption that the price of oranges will skyrocket, he changes his stance. He stops betting on oranges. He stops presuming so hard. If the whole process is based on logical trial and error, then the problem eradicates itself sooner or later.

This is the door into my heart and what's truly there. Because if I'm then honest, I have to realize that my whole process of judging people isn't objective, or based on trial and error at all. I have to admit there's a leak in my boat. Somewhere, bias has snuck in.

Let me tear it apart. Historically, when human beings ignore informative logic in favor of madness, there's instinct involved. Something awakens the innate nature of man, and drives immediate reason to the skirts of the mind, where logic no longer informs action. It's downhill from here; what can make me act completely unlike myself? What can make me abandon truth and drop reason in a second? What makes me revert to defense?

It's fear. I judge people because I'm afraid.

It becomes clearer here. I'm afraid of the threat that a stranger poses. They're unknown; I honestly am in the dark in the presence of a stranger. They're unpredictable; I have no idea whether they'll encourage me or cuss me out. It takes energy, vulnerability, and trust to turn a stranger into an acquaintance. And all of those things incite fear in many of us. 

So like a white man in the ghetto, I align the traits I see with ones that I can't see, and I take it to the extreme. I want to be surprised by people, not turn them into walking danger signs. I want to experience rich relationships, not stifle my connections before understanding them.

And of course, who wants to be judged themself?

Jordan RuizComment