Monday, February 18, 2013

You're stereotyping too, hippie

I have long hair and I am male.

While waiting for a ride after getting back to Chicago I was approached by someone with long hair.  He apologized for interrupting me, apparently noticing that I was very busy staring off into space.  He said that he was looking for some money for a ride or something and I looked like I was cool.  This was followed with a brief, yet not brief enough, complaint about all these yuppies with their suits and rushing off who can't give a person a second and who judge him just because of how he looks.

In his defense, he didn't look particularly dangerous or dirty.  On the other hand, he was complaining about people stereotyping him based on appearance in the same breath that he complained about the people in their suits who are in a rush.

I was a little bored, so I figured I'd entertain myself.  I pointed out the hypocrisy of his complaint.  I joked that I had no money because I couldn't afford my suit yet.  He suggested a store that sells cheap suits.  This guy didn't seem too swift.  He said how I seemed to think through what I was saying rather than just whatever comes to mind.  I refrained from pointing out the contrast between us.

Before he went away I lectured him more on psychology. I explained how many of those supposed yuppies are people looking for jobs, putting on the clothes and playing the part, because they need money like anyone else.  In other circumstances they'd be dressed down drinking with their buddies with all the time in the world.  People in a rush are less likely to help; they are, after all, in a rush.  It's not a measure of their kindness but of their situation.

It's a shame when people cannot see themselves mirrored in others.  Maybe the mirror is colored slightly or a little distorted, but the general reflection is still there.  I can see myself as one of those yuppies, rushing to an interview or meeting, my mind occupied by other problems, and I know that in those circumstances I'd be less likely to stop.  I try to give others that benefit as well, to recognize that not everyone who ignores me is a jerk.  Similarly, when I need to be the guy asking for a favor or directions, I try to consider how they'll see me.  How am I dressed?  How am I approaching them and talking to them?

It's like Gandhi said: "Be the guy asking for change that you want to see in the world.  And also, quit stereotyping people; just because you got stereotyped doesn't mean you're innocent."

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