We were having breakfast. I had decided that I really wanted a big bowl of porridge, even though that’s not on the list of things I should eat, and I was tucking into it. There were two people working the room, cleaning up tables after guests left. It was a busy spot. Both of them wore the company uniform and both were friendly and efficient. The worked together well, and joked with each other comfortably as they did so.

They were different though.

He was an able bodied white man who was tall, fit and extremely handsome.

She was an able bodied person of colour who was short, a bit pudgy and quite pretty.

Beside us was a group of middle aged parents with two teen children. Their conversation almost immediately went to the man who was working the room cleaning up tables. In essence they thought it was a pity that such a man was ‘reduced’ to doing such menial work. They said he looked like he should be in an office somewhere in charge of something important. Mom said, “What a disappointment he must be to his family.”

None of them mentioned the woman. Not a word was said about her at all. They felt the work was beneath him but not her. She fit in their mind as being in her place. He did not.

When we were done he came over to pick up our stuff and we chatted briefly about the day. He was tall and fit and handsome and also quite charming. He carried himself proudly and clearly did not see himself as some huge failure and disappointment.  I found myself praying that he didn’t hear the people at the next table.

How does it come to be that we judge people so harshly based on superficial characteristics? It happens to me all the time but I realized after this experience that I am so not alone with this, I get a constant barrage of prejudice because my difference is multidimensional which multiplies prejudice. But it’s everywhere, if this handsome, tall, fit man has to deal with those who feel, without knowing him that his work is beneath him and that he failed in his quest of ‘white man destiny’ then I wonder if it is possible for anyone to go a day simply respecting everyone in their path?

I’m not sure it is.

What do you think?