Counteracting disposition toward prejudice fosters empathy, understanding

Katie Cavender, co-editor-in-chief

When I went on a college visit recently and stayed overnight, one of the girls who stayed in the same room as me was quiet, high-pitched when she did speak and overweight. Almost instinctually, I neglected to talk to her because she was different from me. When I thought about it in hindsight, that behavior was not representative of the person I want to be. I have always thought of myself as an accepting and open person–so what happened?

I feel it is safe to assume that everyone does this to some extent, surrounding  ourselves with friends similar to us, either in the way we look, the way we act, the things we like or a combination of those.

When I walk down the school hallway or even the street, I can’t help but make tiny, insignificant assumptions about the people I see based on the way they dress, the way they wear their hair or the way they look in general. I hate this quality in myself that makes me judge everyone I see and meet. But that’s human, right?

It is easy to justify this sort of thinking by saying something like that. “Well, I’m only human.” In fact, according to, an Arizona State University study revealed that a tendency toward prejudice is hard-wired into our brains through evolution. But when this type of judgement goes too far, it creates a division between people who are different from one another, even if they differ only in small ways.

One of the most important parts of life is experiencing many different viewpoints by talking to many different people. By judging, and in some cases avoiding, people who are different than me, I am missing out on important opportunities to learn. I need to learn to combat my natural tendencies in order to enrich my social consciousness.

A few times, I have been successful at ignoring my first impressions. Two of my best friends are a lot more outgoing and sociable than I was when I met them. At first, I was taken aback by their willingness to jump into a conversation with anyone. However, by letting myself get to know them, I developed two of the strongest friendships I have had throughout high school that I know will last beyond graduation.

These two best friends actually brought out the more outgoing and friendly side in me, and by being accepting despite my initial judgements, I became a better person. Continuing to develop relationships in this way will be the key to my social attitude as I move forward in life.