Everyone has been a victim of discrimination at some point in their lives. It may have been due to their age, gender, race, ethnicity, or even where they live, but it has occurred, Discrimination today is almost just a part of life that we all have to deal with. But why? It doesn’t make anyone feel better, so why do we do it? Why are we as a society so set on picking out the differences in people and finding a way to use their differences against them? A person’s appearance should not matter and yet a person’s appearance is what is judged mostr TWO great examples of people being judged based on appearance are Brent Staples‘ essay “Just Walk On By: A Black Man Ponders His Power to Alter Public Space” and Debra Dickerson’s essay “Who Shot Johnny?”.
Although both essays deal with what is it to be black in society, they both prove a point about being looked at differently just because of who you are.
Staples describes walking the streets at night and seeing people do everything in their power to avoid getting close to him; Dickerson tells of her nephew, Johnny, who was shot just because he was trying to be friendly and waved at a car he thought he recognized.
Both essays tell of discrimination that people face just from living in a certain place or dressing a certain way. In the world today we have become so preoccupied with how people look on the outside, we forget to look at what is on the inside.
How a person looks can have a major affect on how people act towards them. Staples shows this in his essay when he describes the couple he walked past one night on his way home. In seeing Staples standing there they froze and the woman held tight to her purse. The couple saw him as a threat even though he had no intentions of harming them. Just the way he was dressed and they way he stood instilled such a sense of fear into the couple: “If I‘d been younger, with less to lose, I’d have robbed them, and it would have been easy“ (Staples 245). Staples says this after he looks at the situation he is constantly faced with. Just because of who he is and what he looks like, he instills such a sense of fear into people, Although he knows he isn’t doing anything wrong Staples still says he “was surprised, embarrassed, and dismayed“ (240) at everything that went one Staples was simply trying to go home and because he looked like a threat everyone he came across, even people he knew, took him as one.
Staples’ story is just one account of how people are treated based on how they look but, it’s everywhere. When you see someone who fits the stereotypical appearance of someone who will cause harm, or do you wrong in anyway, the natural reaction is to get away, This is causing the people to feel insecure about themselves and it makes them have to think about everything they do and how they lookjust to make sure they are not creating an environment that is uncomfortable for others around them Because we as a society are so focused on how people look on the outside we tend to forget that those people we see as threatening are people too. Another type of discrimination that goes along with appearance is where a person is from, or where they live These two factors go hand in hand because if a person is from a place that has a bad reputation, and they fit the typical appearance of someone who is no good, then the assumption that that person is up to no good is even greater. This is what seems to have happened in Dickerson’s essay “Who Shot Johnny?”
They lived in a bad neighborhood and her nephew was a young black male. Young black males are often discriminated against by people assuming they are part of a gang, into drugs, orjust up to no good in generals When you add living in a notoriously bad neighborhood into the mix it makes it even easier for people to always assume the worst, A great example of this is when Dickerson‘s nephew was shot after waving to a car he thought he recognized, the assumption many people who dealt with the case had was “he must apparently be involved with gangs or drugs Probably both” (Dickerson 658) People thought this simply because Johnny was dressed in baggy clothes (maybe he thought they were comfortable), lived in a bad neighborhood (it’s what his family could afford), and he was a young black male (he can‘t help who he is on the outside). Situations like this are all too common in the world today One of the driving factors behind them is fear and as Staples said “Where fear and weapons meet […] there is always the possibility of death” (241).
Thankfully Dickerson‘s nephew was not killed in the shooting he was a victim of but the possibility of it happening is always there. The same possibility is always around for Staples as well, he could easily come across someone some night who fears his appearance so much they do something unthinkable In most cases a person doesn’t have the ability to change what they look like on the outside It isn‘t up to others to decide that a person is less just because of those factors either, The only things a person should be judged on is what is inside of them, It shouldn’t matter what they look like or where they live A person is a person no matter what and just because they are different doesn’t make them any less.