A senior colleague told me a story of how he visited a boutique in Manhattan, New-York to buy some shirts. Let’s provide some context; my senior colleague is a Nigerian professional who travels around the world and by any metrics, he is a middle-class individual. He is extremely unassuming, meek and never shows off; you could easily mistake him for a “nobody” until you hear him speak.
“As I entered the high-street shop, I could tell that the attendant had “sized” me up and concluded that I did not belong to some areas of the shop where the expensive shirts were displayed. As I walked around, the attendant followed me asking questions and making suggestions. Each time I tried to approach the “Hugo Boss” end of the shop, he would mention the high cost of the shirts and stylishly allude to the fact they may be too expensive for me”.
“For a fact, I had never bought a Hugo Boss shirt before that day but I also hate prejudice. Why would a person just determine that another individual can’t be up to a standard without really knowing them? Why will you prejudice a person based on their colour, gender, race, religion or physical appearance? It’s just WRONG”.
“Against his advice, I went to the Hugo Boss stand, picked three shirts and approached the cashier. The look on the attendant’s face was heart-warming for me. He was virtually in shook as I walked past him to go and pay for the shirts. He had no reason to pre-judge my capability to buy those shirts; no facts, no historical knowledge about me, yet he concluded that it was impossible for me to afford one Hugo Boss shirt, talk less of three”.
“If the situation was considered with an open mind from another perspective, the attendant might not have malicious intent; he probably felt like helping me avoid the heart-ache of seeing the top-notch products that I could not economically afford.
He might also have concluded that I was a visitor who was just window shopping and did not want me to waste his time. Even with this perspective, prejudice is still WRONG”
“Finally, I got to the cashier. The lady behind the counter took the shirts, scanned them and told me the price. Oh-Oh!! Each shirt was 4 times the price of my usual shirts.
The first thought was to excuse myself, return the shirts and head out. But come to think of it, I could afford these shirts and it does not hurt to splurge once in a while. I reached out for my bank card and paid for the shirts”
“As I walked out of the shop, chest out, shoulders raised, the look on the attendant’s face became more interesting. He must have thought that the price of the shirts would bring me back to my senses; he probably believed that any human being who had enough money to buy those shirts must possess some kind of swagger that were missing from my looks. I became a paradox to him”
“It’s been about 6 years now; those shirts are still as new like the day I bought them. It sure pays to buy quality things”.
There is a lesson for humanity here. Never conclude on any matter, especially human issues, until all the facts are in. Even the best of humans gets judgmental once in a while in their hearts; the difference is that they fight their “demons” really hard to ensure that they don’t hurt others with their opinions.
Prejudice is bad and wrong, no matter what form it appears.