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新視野大學英語聽說教程2 06b

Judge by Appearances

A standard criticism of sociological research is that it goes to great lengths to prove what most people with common sense already know. Without exactly taking sides for or against that criticism ,Iwant to describe a sociological exercise that might seem to validate it--exceptthat, for me and a classmate (and maybe for some who read this account),the experience made a common claim come alive.

During spring break from a local colllege,my friend and I went downtown to shop.First, however ,we made ourselves virtually unrecognizable to our friends and even to our famliies.We wore a faded cotton shirt over a T-shirtand a wrinkled skirt over sweat pants.Iwore a wool hat that concealed my hair and an unfashionable coat and glasses with sunshades that clipped on.

The aim was to look like street people and to observe what difference that made in the way other people responded to us.We were also prepared to act out some mildly unusual behaviors that might speak of some emotional problems,without appearing seriously disturbed or dangerous,As it turned out,there was no need for dramatics;people turned us off or turned us out on the basis of appearance alone.

Our first stop (after parking our cars near the railroad tracks)was in the bargain store of a local charity,where we politely asked access to a bathroom and were refused.Next we entered the lobby of a large hotel,where we asked for a coffee shhop and a bathroom.The doorman said,"you must go to the twentieth floor."We weren't up to trying our act at an exclusiverestaurant,so we wandered around the first floor and left.From there we went to a second-hand shop,where we more or less blended with the customers, and then to the upper-scale stores and coffee shops during the lunch hour.

It was predudice time. Some of the children we encountered stared, pointed, and laughed; adults gave ue long, doubting looks. Clerks in stores followed our track to watch our every move. In a lunchroom a second assistant hurried to the side of the cashier, where they took my $2 checkwithout askingfor ID; it seemed worth that price to have us out the door. At one doorway a clerk physically blocked the entrance apparently to discourage our entry.

We had money to cover small purchases, and , apart from wearing downscale clothing, we did nothing in any of these settings to draw attention to ourselves; we merely shopped quietly in our acccustomed manner. At one establishment we did blow our cover when we ordered French rolls with two special coffees; that may have been too far out of character for"bag ladies". Elsewhere we encountered ribbing, imitating, lack of trust, and rude stares.

So what did we learn? Mostly what everybody knows:People judge by appearences. Just looking poor brings with it prejudice, accompanied by removal of much of the social grated. Laking the culturally acceptable symbols of belonging in this setting, we became, to a degree, objects, with less inherent dignity as persons.

There was, however, one surprise--more accurately, a shoke. It became clear most stronfly at the shop I mentioned earlier, the one where a clerk conspicuously positioned herself in the entrance on seeing ua. I had just noticed the place and had turned to my companion, saying,"I've never seen thie store. Let's go in."She looked at me with alarm;"You're not really going there, are you?"

I knew what she meant and shared her feeling. The place felt out of bounds for us. In a very few hours, we found ourselves acceping and internalizing the superficial and prejudiced judgments of ourselves that prevailed among the people we meet; we catalogued ourselves. Undoubtedly, it's a good lesson to learn, maybe especially for sociologists.
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