Are you aware of the labels, stereotypes and prejudices that you apply when you meet someone? Most of us aren’t, and I know that I have often made the mistake of letting them guide my views of other people.
For example, when I was in college, my American friend invited me to meet her friends from Saudi Arabia. “They’re super nice!”, she told me. But to be honest, I was very suspicious. I was expecting them to meet us wearing traditional clothes, to only talk about religion and to ignore me for reasons related to my gender. How wrong I was! When we finally met them, they were dressed in surfer shorts and tank tops, and they would not stop talking to me (or anyone) about food, classes, professors and all other things that any college student would discuss.
And it was after this day that I really started realizing how I often I would generalize and apply labels to people that I had not even met.
This is exactly the topic that Coca Cola deals with in their 2015 Ramadan commercials.
Take a look at this video. It shows the first encounter between 6 strangers, set in a completely dark room. After short introductions and personal descriptions, the strangers are invited to describe the person across from them (of course, without seeing them).
The participants chosen are naturally far from the typical image of the person that they represent (a Westerner who is fluent in Arabic, a business man who plays in a heavy metal band, a former TED talk speaker with a full-body tattoo, etc), but as an audience member who can see the person that is described, it is really incredible and almost funny to see the prejudices that the participants have already applied to their neighbors.
Once the lights were turned on and the participants got to see one another, it is clear that the person that they had imagined looked nothing like the person who was actually sitting in front of them. The participants are shocked and amazed, and, of course, surprised.
And that is the power of crushing prejudices! Few people are capable of summoning an accurate image of an unknown personality, especially if the person is from another culture (be it domestic or international), before being exposed and made to interact with the person in question.
This may be a Coca Cola commercial, but the message behind the video is absolutely amazing, and definitely worth a second thought.
“Labels are for cans, not for people!”
Thank you Coca Cola.