It’s interesting the way in which ones appearance can determine the view or perception somebody has of them. The United Kingdom is so heavily exposed to a range of cultures and traditions, a place where many people from diverse and various backgrounds all live. But despite living in the UK, a place of diversity and culture, where we so proudly claim to offer opportunities for those who work hard for them, there still appears to be restriction from these opportunities as a result of people’s perceptive outlooks on others. These opportunities range from gaining work experience and insight into different career paths to actually getting full time employment and desired jobs. How can we aim to instil the youth with the inclination of working hard in order to receive these good opportunities and brighten their future through jobs and fulfilment of career goals if as a society we are unable to look pass their appearance?
Some may argue that the UK is filled with chances to achieve great things and aspire for great opportunities. This of course has some element of truth within it, for example, with all students being entitled to a free education until the age of 18. Ostensibly, with education the youth are able to study their crafts and pursue their chosen career which is most definitely a positive thing. Therefore, the right to free education is indeed a privilege which we have as not all children are fortunate to have this in other countries.
However in saying this, it is important to note that this equality we talk of is only apparent to an extent. Why is it that the media commonly associate teenage boys to be a threat due to the type of apparel they choose? Cases like this have resulted in sometimes unnecessary interrogation from police officers in London, with similar and somewhat more extreme scenarios with our American neighbours. This was illustrated in the case of Trayvon Martin where a teenage boy was judged by his appearance and this judgement cost him his life. Subsequently shown in cases like these is the detrimental effect of stereotypes as Trayvon Martin himself was not a threat, but due to his appearance being perceived as threatening he was killed even though he himself did not inflict killing or any danger close to the sort. This appears to be a reoccurring issue amongst our society; where personal judgements are continuously based on appearances as opposed to the content of character. How can we continue to promote equality and teach the young to do so also, when we so profoundly judge others instinctively by their appearances?
It is evident that in many cases and circumstances stereotypes exist so the first step should be the acknowledgment of this. A lot of the controversy from the Trayvon Martin case, stemmed from the fact that the person who shot the innocent teenager would go unpunished, due to the belief that he was carrying out his role of keeping the neighbourhood safe. But the incentive behind shooting Trayvon was could be said to have been the neighbourhood watcher’s fixed mind-set of a stereotypical threatening American teenager.
The way in which society can move on from this is not by pointing the finger and throwing the blame on one another but by actually acknowledging that there are stereotypes and that everyone whether intentionally or not, hold preconceived notions of others. The decline in stigma on the way particular people in society are viewed – for example teenage boys in hoodies – can be changed through being honest about having these preconceived notions on others, recognising why it is we have formed them and finally from there can we move on to taking an active approach in educating ourselves and aim towards a less judgmental and more optimistic future.