“Great spirits have always found violent opposition from mediocrities. The latter cannot understand it when a man does not thoughtlessly submit to hereditary prejudices but honestly and courageously uses his intelligence.”
I have to dress up for work. All the way up to suit and tie at times. I don’t mind dressing up by I enjoy dressing down. I wear soccer shirts and jeans, or T-shirt and shorts when I get the chance to relax. Before I moved to the US I did not understand a lot of the labels that people have to live with every day. What is worse, I did not know that I was going to get a whole bunch of labels attached to me. Prejudice exists everywhere, but I believe that the US is the worse when it comes to labels. I have plenty of stories to tell about being discriminated against because of the color of my skin, but race aside I want to tell a little story about prejudice.
I walked into a cell phone store on my day off. I was wearing jeans and a T-shirt. My Gym shoes were probably not brand new, but overall all my clothes were clean and in good shape. The store was almost empty. Besides 2 customers already being assisted there was a supervisor that was not helping anyone at the moment. I walked around the store looking at cell phones and eventually approached the supervisor to ask him about getting a new phone. The guy acted annoyed and without even asking me about what features or plan I was looking for showed me the “free” phones. At this point I was becoming annoyed. I was not just feeling like I was wasting his time, but I felt judged… and at the time I thought it was probably due to my race… however I was wrong.
A couple of weeks later, after work in full suit and tie I had a chance to stop by the same store. By then I had researched what phones were available and was ready to just make the purchase. I went to the same store for convenience and since I did not need help I figured there would be no problem. I could have never been prepared for what happened next.
The same guy that had “helped” me before was there. At first I felt, oh great I am going to have to deal with this jerk again. It was about 5:30 PM and the store was full of people. They were not just busy, they were swamped. I almost turned around and left because I felt like I was going to just have to wait forever. I walked around a little and looked at phones and examined features, like I had done the first time I was there. I decided, its way too busy I will either go to another store or just wait. As I turned to walk out something happened that I did not expect. The same guy that had pretty much ignored me before said, I will be right with you Sir. I was dumbfounded… I looked around and was the only person standing in the direction that he spoke, he was talking to me.
I thought the guy had treaded me that way because of the color of my skin, but I was wrong. He used prejudice from a totally different angle; he only saw what he perceived to me the size of my wallet. You might be saying to yourself right now, how does he know that for sure… and well if I am wrong tell me, but the way he treated me made me come to this conclusion. The supervisor finished up with the customer and came over to me, he saw the phone that I was looking at and instantly told me, if you like that one you are going to love this one, we just got it in. I did not know what to say, this guy was actually trying to up sell me, the same guy that had taken me straight to the “free” phones when I walked in with jeans and T-shirt. The guy not only showed me a couple of phones but even though there was other people there that had walked in after me talked to me about the newest plans and coverage areas. I ended up getting the same phone I had walked in planning to get, it had the features I needed and even though the other ones were cool, there was no need for the extra expense.
Einstein is by many considered one of the smartest people that ever lived. Some are more impressed than others by him. He is almost like the geek celebrity. However this quote is one that I hope I can say I live. I try to use my intelligence rather than preconceived notions when I approach situations and people. While I am not perfect, I do try not to be a victim of preconceived judgment and truly feel like every person in the world no matter who they are has something to teach me. Prejudice is something that is hard to escape; it takes a conscious effort to not be dominated by it. At times this is made even more challenging when stereotypes are perpetuated by people acting like morons. I really hope that some time in the future we can live in a society where labels of race, physical appearance or economic status do not play such an important role on the way we categorize people.
Should I be mad that the guy judged me on my appearance? Was he truly judging me just on my appearance or was it just using the sales mentality that he probably knew of “up sell the suits and ignore the t-shirt and jeans guys”? Was my race a factor at all? Was that prejudice?