Why do we judge people by how they look? Why do we label people and then assume we "know" them because we are able to put a certain label on them?
This weekend I went to a photography exhibit called Sobriety. It was profiling the issue of homelessness in Aurora. I found it interesting to see the pictures and read some of the stories. The artist spoke as well as some of the people who were profiled in the exhibit. Most of the photographs were portraits. If you didn't know that you were looking at people who are homeless, you wouldn't have known it just by looking at the photographs. They didn't look like the stereotype that many of us have when we think "homeless". And I would guess that's exactly what the artist was trying to accomplish. He wanted us to get outside of our box, to recognize that it's not an us/them thing. We are all part of the same community and deserve the same respect from each other.
So why do I judge people by how they look? Why do I look at you and think, "oh you're _____, so that means _____"? No matter what label I may fill in the blank with, it does not define who you are. It's simply a frame of reference. But it should not determine how I treat you. It should not make me assume I know you.
A label might be a starting point, but hopefully it does not keep me from digging deeper to really get to know you and seeking to understand what you are about.