Being human: Not judging people by appearances

Jennifer Dettwiller, Staff Reporter

I am a person. This is who I am, but people tend to set their own labels on me without knowing my story. I have an olive skin tone, green eyes, curly hair and strong facial features. With all these factors, I am commonly stereotyped as being “mixed.” This then starts making me wonder what makes someone think this way, and mixed with what type of ethnicity. Why do we, as people, automatically label each other? How wrong can the label we place on one another be? 

Stereotypes are one of those things we are unconsciously conditioned to place on people so we can make sense of where people belong. The only stereotype that can always be 100 percent accurate is that everyone is human.

Stereotypes are mostly based on what people can deduce from someone else’s appearance. This does not only go for ethnicities either. People are stereotyped by the colors they wear, how they apply their makeup, or don’t apply makeup, the crowds they hang around with and their interests. Because of this, I have donned many masks due to others’ expectations like theatre nerd, basic white chick, teacher’s pet, which I definitely am not, and jock.

However, what many people don’t understand is that stereotypes can be harmful. Even if they meant it to be the least harmful thing ever, words do hurt.  

Calling someone who is in a wheelchair a hypochondriac is an example of my own experience of being harmfully stereotyped. I understood that the person saying this could not see my illness, but that goes back to placing a stereotype on someone by their appearance. I’ve also been labeled as being “psychotically skinny.” I personally do not understand how anyone could take that as a compliment. However, the person who said that meant it in exactly that way. As a woman who struggled with body image when she was younger by making herself sick to stay skinny, I personally couldn’t take that as a compliment. The physical and mental harm labels can cause someone are why people need to think before they speak and stop judging people on appearance.

Harmful, inappropriate sayings also include “a woman’s place is in the kitchen” or “a man can’t show emotion if he wants to be seen as tough.” Everyone has their preferences if they like to cook or not, and everyone has emotions. Telling people what they should or shouldn’t do because they don’t fit the stereotype of their gender is harmful and highly inappropriate.

Seeing someone for who they are instead of what society has told us to label them as is what will help the world strive. No one is a goth, a prep, the whitest white or an “Oreo” or a thick or too skinny person unless they themselves identify as one. Even with that, it is still inappropriate to call someone any of these names even in a joking manner. With everything going on in the world, race and skin color have been factors in things that they have nothing to do with, and it is harming the individual people more than the people as a whole. We are a people. That is what is most important.

I identify as a white female who struggles with an invisible illness and body weight and loves musicals. Who are you without other people’s stereotypes?