Quick Judgments Are Harmful

Yesterday afternoon we went to see Sing! Before the movie began I noticed the young girl sitting in front of me, about five or six years old. She was wearing a winter cap with words around the bottom of it. All I could make out were HERSCARO. I thought there was a break between the S and the C, but that wasn’t completely clear. I tried of lot of different possibilities, trying to figure out what her hat could say. Nothing was truly fitting. Finally, she turned some and I was able to make out that it was CAROLINA PANTHERS. Someone with more interest in sports would likely have been able to figure that out. I couldn’t.

It got me thinking about how often we make judgments based on only some of the information. It’s human nature to do so. But with social media we often make those judgments quite loudly now, rather than just to ourselves. There are positives and negatives to this fact.

This video has been flying around the internet. The first time I watched it was because it had been shared on twitter with the comment, “Frankly women have to do this all the time and we generally don’t get this flustered when it happens.” I watched the video and saw a frustrated dad, hilariously darling children, and a harried mom. I was really bothered by it. I saw the dad shove his daughter away without even looking at her. I saw the mom fly in, completely off balance, grab the kids, and skid out, dragging the door shut as she seems to be falling to the floor. The whole scenario made me uncomfortable.

Watch it now, can you see it through that lens?

I was genuinely worried about the mom because the way I was seeing the dad treat the children seemed so callous that I was afraid he was angry with her as well.

After much discussion on the internet I am seeing this video through a completely different lens. A friend pointed out that he probably can see his daughter on the screen so he’s not randomly just pushing out at her. That hadn’t crossed my mind. His facial expressions don’t look as angry to me now as they did when I first watched it. He does seem flustered, but not upset in the way I had seen before.

Another friend pointed out that the mom seems to be holding her pants up. I wonder if she had tried to take a quick bathroom break and the kids took off. It would also explain the way she is moving. It’s not that she’s scared of him, but that she’s scared of losing her pants as she tries to get her kids back out of the room.

I can watch the video now and be amused by it rather than angered. And feel some sympathy for both parents. But that took seeing it from different perspectives.

My response to the video landed me in hot water on social media as several people I don’t know called me racist. I’ve seen this label being put on many in response to this video because people have assumed the mom is a nanny. I never suggested that because that didn’t even cross my mind. But apparently the way I was seeing the mom made me racist. Now I’m identifying with the dad in this video as I’m feeling people making a quick judgment of me based on very little information, just as I did to him.

I pride myself of giving others the benefit of the doubt. When I am annoyed at another driver or a person in the grocery store, my brain immediately begins to think of reasons I might behave the way they are behaving. I try to understand and, therefore, have some patience. It seems I’m less likely to do that online. I think this is a far greater challenge to our society than I had realized. These quick judgments we make, based on 140 characters, or a brief video, or a FB update, are causing us to be more isolated and more divided than ever.

It’s difficult to have conversations that will move anyone forward if we’re all judging quickly and identifying each other with labels that we find highly offensive (troll, racist, libtard, etc.). Those labels do clearly fit some, without any question at all. But once we’ve slapped those labels on, it is awfully hard to have any kind of conversation. We see ourselves as needing to educate the ‘other’ rather than learning together. Together, in any sense, becomes almost impossible. And I think we need together quite significantly right now.

So, to this working dad, I apologize. I hope you and your lovely family had a good laugh together after this. Your kids seem to own their world and that’s exactly what they should do at their young ages. I also, sincerely hope, you have avoided online attacks and seen only the people who are loving this video. (Although I recognize the futility in that hope.)

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