We have a need to identify and categorize everything. Our brain function requires that we put every object, action, and experience into some orderly format for future retrieval. It's the world's most sophisticated filing system. We can make much better use of it with a little practice. Rather than instantly labeling and storing each thought or image, we can teach ourselves to be more mindful.
Mindfulness is quite a buzz word these days, but it's a valuable skill to develop. Paying attention to how we see things can help us overcome snap judgments, societal limitations, and inaccurate memories, not to mention bigotry, racism, sexism, and all the major problems of misunderstanding that plague our world.
When we see someone new, how do we file the memory? Do we look at skin color? Clothing? What car they're driving? The timbre of their voice? I know I tend to be influenced by smiles, I notice skin color, and I don't notice hair & eye color or clothing. Once we identify our automatic associations, we can start to manage them. I don't want to judge people because of a lack of dental care -- how silly would that be? So if I see a less-pleasant smile, I have to look deeper. Try looking at something, anything, and making non-judgmental observations about it. Those scissors are dangerous can be replaced with those scissors are sharp, gray, new, long. that rock is bumpy, oval, speckled grays, heavy. Not wrong, right, scary -- no emotional observations, just facts.
We need our labels, and it's OK to identify people with their ethnicity or gender or external beauty, as long as we don't stop there. As long as we're willing to exercise our brains' automatic labeling mechanisms, they can serve us well. If we can learn to see one another with facts, not judgments,, and then choose our actions, we can eliminate inequality in our minds, and eventually in our culture.