Of Facial Recognitions and Judging a Book By Its Cover
Some time ago, I was on a Kumasi-bound bus away from Accra, and two police officers made a raid in what looked like a routine traffic stop.
One of them stood in the bus’ walkway, glanced through the passengers and pointed at 3 random men, instructing his junior officer to search them.
I observed how thorough the search was — like he was processing a crime scene for latent evidence. The officer would repeatedly run his hand around their legs, searching for guns; shuffle through every luggage they carried, emptied their pockets, even looked beneath their seats. One man was even made to step out of his shoes!
Everyone had questions: why they specifically chose these subjects, even though there were no suspicions, tip-offs or unusual movements.
Later, all the passengers would engage in an open conversation and we discovered these targeted folks had the “criminal look”. Either they donned a tattered jeans, wore a cap or shades, or kept a beard.
Nothing was found on any of them.
Much as it was an unfortunate moment for these men, so it is for a lot of people, who have been judged and maltreated by their appearance. And then the real wolves clad in sheep skin and get away with wrongdoing…
The incident reminds me of my own ordeal at an airport when I was subjected to extra security check amidst a lot panic, supposedly because of a hooded sweater I wore.
People make snap judgments and form opinions about others based on their facial appearance and on their pre-existing beliefs about how others’ personalities work. When we look at people, we try to judge them and make impressions about them — usually turning out false.
In business and networking, first impressions can make or break a potentially lucrative and successful relationship. As a rule, we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover — making assumptions is a recipe for misunderstandings and miscommunication. But it is unfortunately human nature to make form unwholesome opinions about people based on how they present and carry themselves.
Have you ever been a victim of facial bias?
Share your story.