Labels Are for Clothes, Not People

Tali Zangari is the Asst. Opinions Editor for the Voice. She is a junior English and Secondary Education major.

We’ve all heard the break down of the spelling of “assume” which also details its meaning. We’ve all been told not to be judgmental.  So why, after eighteen-plus years, do we still make judgments and assumptions? I can hear you now, denying that you are in fact, judgmental.  There are a thousand things that people can be judgmental about.  We judge and label people based on what we see or what we hear about them, and as long as we’re not rash or insulting, is being judgmental really such a bad thing?

We are judged every day. By professors, by each other, by the cashier at the Sal-Val, or by the lady at the commons, by friends, strangers, and family members.    We’ve been raised in a society that judges people on how they look and what they wear and who they hang out with.  We always know that we are judged, and what we are judged on. The problem lies in assumptions people make with little to no proof to back them up.  A professor I am unlucky enough to have often makes it very clear what his judgment of his students is.  He talks down to us, acting like we are all the stereotypical college kids who sleep all day, live off of our parents’ credit cards, and drink ourselves into a stupor every night.  Which some of us might, but some of us also work, drive twenty-year-old cars, or spend more time studying than we do partying.  Other professors assume that all we ever do is schoolwork, and so they assign unnecessary amounts of labor which take more time than is available.  We also label professors based on the impression they give us as students.  We label the guy who cuts us off driving as a jerk, even though he might be driving to the hospital because his wife is going into labor.  We label the teenager who buys a pregnancy test stupid and easy, even though she might be buying it for her friend who was taken advantage of.

I am not denying that when we label someone without giving them a chance to prove who they really are that we have wronged them.  But sometimes, judging someone is simply using the information that you have, which they put out for everyone to see, to form an opinion.  People will make assumptions based on the information you give them about you.  If you always wear a lot of makeup, fancy jewelry, and obviously expensive clothes, you are going to be judged as superficial because of what information you give people about you.  If you go out every night of the week, you might be judged as a partier, which might not be a bad thing.  The problem with being judgmental is when you start using your judgment as fact, rather than as the opinion they are. These judgments should always be growing and open to change.  I’ll be the first one to admit that my first impressions of other people are not always right.

We all know why we get judged and why we judge other people.  And although we want to be known as what we really are, it’s hard to make sure that our friends and activities show who we truly are.  Sometimes judgment and assumptions gets people out of danger, or away from someone who could potentially be dangerous.   Often, our judgment is what we rely on to decide who it would be safe to ask for a ride home from.  Judgment is not always a negative aspect of our lives, but we need to make sure that we don’t base entire relationships with people off of our initial judgment of them.  Instead, we need to look past the image they show the world, whether intentionally shown or not, and allow our judgments and opinions to change over time, as we build them with more reliable, first-hand information.