Guest Columnist: Charlyne Blatcher Martin, M.A.
Many of us grew up with the Christian teaching that warns us to not judge others. Yet, judging others, especially those from other countries, has seeped into our individual and collective consciousness. Surprise. We are being judged by the very ones we are scrutinizing. While it appears to make us equal in our indiscretion, none of us gets off that easy. Developing stereotypes and prejudices against people who are not just like us is causing major problems for all humankind.
Why do we judge others? I believe that most of us are somewhat comfortable with our place in “our world,” such as our country, our city, and our neighborhood. Notice the operative word, “our.” People and situations that are not a regular part of our environment become suspect and often cause fear. Once we recognize that someone is different because of how they dress, how they speak, and our presumption as to their cultural and ethnic background, the stage is set for the judgment to begin. It is safe to say that our fear or insecurity is often the breeding ground for casting a suspicious eye at “the foreigner.”
Americans are not the only ones “casting the suspicious eye” at “the foreigner.” We become that foreigner to people in other countries. The American culture is not as highly regarded worldwide as we tend to believe. Overall, how we are judged is the same process that we use to judge others. The people of the world share judgmental behavior in common. In the early ’90s, I visited my daughter who was living in London. Even with my Midwestern accent, people asked, “What country do you come from?” I was a bit surprised and answered, “America.” The response was, “I would have not guessed America. You are so friendly, not at all like some other Americans.” I experienced similar comments in Mexico during the early ’90s. What! Aren’t Americans friendly when they visit other countries? To that merchant, I guess not. I hoped that I had scored a point for team America in both places.
The Pew Institute* conducted two studies in 2012 in which they asked the questions:
- Do you have a favorable or unfavorable view of America?
- Do you have a favorable or unfavorable view of the American people?
The responses to those questions were very interesting as they came from countries worldwide. Here are some of the results:
- Americans have an 80% favorable view of the United States and a 14% unfavorable view of the United States. Americans have an 86% favorable opinion of the American people and a 10% unfavorable view of the American people.
- Pakistan has an 80% unfavorable opinion of the United States and a 12% favorable view of the United States. Pakistan has a 73% unfavorable opinion of Americans and a 14% favorable opinion of Americans.
- Mexico has a 56% favorable opinion of the United States and a 34% unfavorable opinion of the United States. Mexico has a 49% favorable opinion of Americans and a 40% unfavorable opinion of Americans.
A few things stand out when looking at the percentages. For example, it is refreshing to see that a majority of Americans are happy with us as a country and as a people. On the other hand, that happiness is based upon a sameness that we feel as American citizens. We share a common language and culture. What about those Americans who do not have favorable opinions about the country or the people? We judge each other, too.
It begins to look very different as the statistics show how Pakistan feels toward the United States and the American people. The judgment call is that we are unacceptable as a country and as citizens of America. But, those small percentages of Pakistani people don’t find us so awful in contrast to their majority. What do we have in common with that minority? Are we accepting of them in spite of the hostile conditions that exist between the two countries?
Note: The statistics in this study do not show how the United States and American citizens view these other countries.
Mexico’s opinions about the United States and the American people may reflect the fact that because of the shared border, and in spite of cultural and language differences, there is more familiarity. The United States and Mexico are not engaged in the same type of conflict that exists between us and Pakistan. However, strong sentiments for and against illegal immigration certainly play a role in the responses from the Mexican people. How would the United States and the American people rate Mexico and the Mexican people with the same questions?
People in general judge others because of fear and insecurity as well as judgment based upon commonality—culture, language, ethnicity, etc. Yet, we discover that is it one-on-one contact that determines whether or not we will be accepting or not of an individual who appears differently or comes from another country.
I believe that the young people of today are finding more commonality with the world as opposed to stereotype and prejudice borne of fear. As students and people engaged in the world marketplace exchange ideas and develop new strategies, the barriers of putting a judgment stamp on an entire country or an entire population will begin to crumble. We can keep our individuality and learn to embrace the individual uniqueness of people around the world without fear and prejudice. Will we continue to be judgmental? Yes, it seems to be human nature, but perhaps with a difference. Maybe first we can learn to seek common ground, a place of tolerance and acceptance in spite of perceived differences. Steve Maraboli, author of Life, the Truth, and Being Free, says, “Judging is preventing us from understanding a new truth. Free yourself from the rules of old judgments and create the space for new understanding.”
*PewResearch Center (www.pewresearch.org/topics) Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world. It conducts public opinion polling, demographic research, media content analysis and other empirical social science research. Pew Research does not take policy positions. It is a subsidiary of The Pew Charitable Trusts.
About Charlyne Blatcher Martin
Charlyne Blatcher Martin is located in the Greater Chicago Area. She holds a B.S.G.S. in English and Literature from Rockford College, Rockford, Illinois, and M.A. in Communication Studies from Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, Illinois.
Charlyne is the creator and host of the Comcast television show, “Something To Talk About.” She is a freelance writer covering a broad range of subjects including aviation, education, and medical/health related issues. She is a poet and playwright who specialize in historic subjects.
Contact: [email protected]. Website: Talktocbm.com. Or follow on Twitter: @CBlatcherMartin