Sunday, September 24, 2017

Tall, Fit and Handsome

We were having breakfast. I had decided that I really wanted a big bowl of porridge, even though that's not on the list of things I should eat, and I was tucking into it. There were two people working the room, cleaning up tables after guests left. It was a busy spot. Both of them wore the company uniform and both were friendly and efficient. The worked together well, and joked with each other comfortably as they did so.

They were different though.

He was an able bodied white man who was tall, fit and extremely handsome.

She was an able bodied person of colour who was short, a bit pudgy and quite pretty.

Beside us was a group of middle aged parents with two teen children. Their conversation almost immediately went to the man who was working the room cleaning up tables. In essence they thought it was a pity that such a man was 'reduced' to doing such menial work. They said he looked like he should be in an office somewhere in charge of something important. Mom said, "What a disappointment he must be to his family."

None of them mentioned the woman. Not a word was said about her at all. They felt the work was beneath him but not her. She fit in their mind as being in her place. He did not.

When we were done he came over to pick up our stuff and we chatted briefly about the day. He was tall and fit and handsome and also quite charming. He carried himself proudly and clearly did not see himself as some huge failure and disappointment.  I found myself praying that he didn't hear the people at the next table.

How does it come to be that we judge people so harshly based on superficial characteristics? It happens to me all the time but I realized after this experience that I am so not alone with this, I get a constant barrage of prejudice because my difference is multidimensional which multiplies prejudice. But it's everywhere, if this handsome, tall, fit man has to deal with those who feel, without knowing him that his work is beneath him and that he failed in his quest of 'white man destiny' then I wonder if it is possible for anyone to go a day simply respecting everyone in their path?

I'm not sure it is.

What do you think?


clairesmum said...

If you were to ask this family why they are so prejudiced, they would be shocked that you are even asking...we all have a blind spot to our own behavior....

Frank_V said...

We are such a primitive species, mired in the physical. Like good looks are somehow magically better than being "plain" or even, gasp, "ugly". Tall (white) handsome men on average, make more money than anyone else in the world.

Meanwhile, the rest of us grovel at their feet, hoping for crumbs: NOT!

Unknown said...

My grandmother was an awesome lady. Born in a very affluent Dutch colony in Indonesia with house and personal servants. Went from that back to Europe due to many things too numerous to explain, the war being one of them. Came to Canada in the 50s having only what she could bring in her luggage on the boat. She raised me to meet and greet every individual and to not bring in any bias. Once you got to know that person then you formed your opinion. I try to live like she did but society has a way of tainting and influencing you. She was one of the most accepting people I have ever known and she met some of the most interesting people in her many travels. She taught me that everyone has value and worth not something that is valued or taught today. I only hope that I have been able to be a 10th of the person she was. We could really use people like her right now.

ABEhrhardt said...

We judge everyone in our path automatically (it would take too much effort to pay attention to each and judge) because of things buried deep in our psyches by evolution - or there wouldn't be any of us around on the planet. Add upbringing by parents and in a society, and you are lucky to ever get away from those automatic judgements.

We also judge by 'useful to me' or 'not useful to me.'

It is a much higher version of humanity to learn not to do that. Most people never bother. Some people become aware of their own prejudices, and learn to talk back to them.

And yet, there is some progress, sporadic and of the 'two steps forward, one back' variety. Amazing.

Flemisa said...

That is why I read your blog -- to challenge myself. We get in a "routine" and don't notice habits we have picked up so now I will be more aware of how I do see the people around me. Thanks.

Ron Arnold said...

Our biology / psychology is not always in line with the social mores around us. We may say that things "should" be a certain way, but the truth is - there's a bunch of hard wiring in our genetics / neurology / psyche that point to the fact it isn't a certain way, though it would be nice if it was. There are studies about facial preferences in babies and whether they have them. (They do.) The question is why? Not answered definitively yet.

Unknown said...

I wish we had better language options to describe skin tone than 'white' and 'person of colour'. 'White' (pink) skin isnt the majority skin tone in the world, or the 'original' colour of humans, so why do we have to use it like its the default norm with anyone 'not white' being described as a singular group called 'of colour'?

Shannon said...

Sometimes female wheelchair users are told they are "too pretty for a wheelchair." As if wheelchairs were not for everyone...what, do unattractive people deserve their awful fate while it is worse if good looking people are disabled?

Unknown said...

I love your "pink" reference. My daughter being "brown" and me being "white" was asked by someone why she was black and I white and assumed she was adopted. Being young she replied "my mommy is pink and I am brown, my daddy is black". In her untainted eyes she was stating a fact and correcting someone.