Perception is how we see the world around us. It’s the image we have of everything around us. Suppose you are sitting in a crowded train early in the morning on your way to work in the city or in a bus, and you look around you, you observe the commuters or passengers and from their attitudes, style, dress sense, mannerism deduce certain information to form an opinion about them. The opinions you ascertain might be far from the truth and in most cases are, but unless and until you know them personally you cannot know what “is” the truth or what they “really” are like. With the information you learn from the people around you, you unconsciously filter it and approve or disapprove of it, depending on what you consider good or bad.
At times I feel like, or I sense, that I am being judged simply because I fit into previously held preconceptions of some people. People have the tendency to stereotype, and they do this too involuntarily because of previous experiences or because of what the society wants them to believe.
I certainly believe in my abilities as a person and my contribution to this society is vital, therefore, I am saying this without having to sound like someone who suffers from some sort of inferiority complex that, usually Black people are ‘expected’ to behave and act in certain ways, dress in a particular way – specially the youth – so when a case goes to court and the defendant is black, it is most likely that all evidence will lean heavily towards the defendant and ‘some’ of the Jury members would have formed their verdicts even before the case begins! Why? Because there are staunch in their beliefs and preconceived notions and nothing would change them, hence, the laws of equality and racial discrimination become nothing but fictional.
Personally, I dress in formal clothes for five days of the week, as my line of work demands, but on Saturdays and Sundays I dress in a more casual manner, wearing anything that my hand grabs. So I go out to the nearest grocery stores or supermarkets, wearing a tracksuit bottom and a hooded jumper depending on the weather. As soon as I jump on the bus, the passengers become wary of me, distancing themselves away from me and starring at me as if I have just killed someone! At the grocery store, a silky-haired Indian woman stands behind the counter, her long piercing eyes delving deeper into my soul, scrutinizing my every move, every inch, like a predator waiting for the right moment to strike. Bear in mind, before coming into the shop, I had taken my hood off, I am inclined to. For her, every Black man is a suspect and cannot be trusted.
Perception, too, is something that cannot be so easily changed, for a person to change his/her view of the world must take considerable strain and strength!