By Jess Hylek, City Year AmeriCorps Member on the McDonough Elementary School Team

At the Red Jacket Ceremony, I dedicated my jacket to non-judgment. While others dedicated their jackets to loved ones or people that inspired them to be where they are today, I wanted to dedicate my year of service to an idea that was already brewing in my mind.  

We all judge each other. I think it is a very natural tendency to do so. It goes back to our ancestry, surviving in the wild. Everyone has made snap judgments before. Everyone has consciously, or subconsciously, been influenced by a first impression upon meeting someone new and perhaps even acted upon it. We’ve all had that split-second judgmental thought about that person at the grocery store or even a family member. We all come from different backgrounds, different experiences, and, whether we like it or not, have different biases towards certain qualities in other people.  

We, in turn, have all been victims of another person’s judgment. And I think we can all agree that we felt it was unfair. Perhaps we were frustrated by the assumptions that people have made (or make) about us based on things we cannot control. For example, I feel I am treated differently by car mechanics than my dad is. Perhaps, this is my own bias, feeling judged as a young women by a majority male dominated profession. However, I still feel the frustration and annoyance when they act differently towards me, and explain things differently to me, when I am alone versus when I am with an older male figure, like my father.  

I believe it is vital that we work to quell these quick thoughts once they surface in our mind. And that we especially do not act on them. I believe this type of judgment is the greatest impediment to the Beloved Community we try so hard to build at City Year and in the world; that it is a building block to a segregated society; and that it stems from a lack of knowledge and a lack of understanding. One should not be guilty of judgmental thoughts, however, one should be ashamed of acting upon them. For not stopping to challenge them. For not digging deeper and questioning the root of where that judgment came from. By understanding our judgment, we understand ourselves better.  

This is not easy to do.  

That is why I dedicated my red jacket to non-judgment. I need that daily reminder to try my hardest, to quell those thoughts when they break into my mind, and to give every student the benefit of the doubt. Every teammate a new day. Every teacher and staff member a clean slate to work from. This is not a practice I am holding exclusively inside of City Year, but a daily practice that I intend to start building during my year of service, and then beyond in my everyday life.  

Every day I put my red jacket on, I want to be reminded of this goal. I want to be reminded that I will actively not judge others. I will literally wear non-judgment on my back every day until, hopefully, by the end of my service year, the impression will be made strong enough that I will never need a reminder again. 

I invite you to do the same. 

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