Growing up Muslim American, I frequently encountered stone-cold glances or looks of disapproval, but it wasn’t until the fifth grade that I experienced overt racism. It happened during a school field trip to the annual Children’s Water Education Festival in Irvine. My peers and I were eating Subway for lunch when a young boy from another school looked at me and yelled, “Terrorist!” Judging others is habitual: We judge and are judged constantly. Various studies, time and time again, demonstrate how frequently individuals both judge and misjudge people based on appearance and actions without giving time to understand their behavior. A 2016 study by Allure noted that 80% of people surveyed agreed that everyone judges other people’s looks. Even though the study emphasizes that being judgemental is an innate human characteristic, I believe there is a greater problem of us being narrow-minded. Oftentimes, we don’t accept differing viewpoints, stunting our ability to understand varying perspectives. “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view,” Atticus said. “Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” Acquiring the skill to climb in and walk around in someone else’s skin before reaching a conclusion is a lifelong journey — one I invite everyone to embark on. It wasn’t until I read Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” in the eighth grade that I truly started to comprehend the boy’s hostile behavior. Published in 1960, Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel follows the story of a child’s view of race and justice in the South. I learned alongside Scout as her father, Atticus Finch, taught her to be a morally responsible person. Enriched in wisdom, Lee’s prose contains life lessons applicable to any day and age — taking form in the words of Atticus. A snippet of a larger conversation, Atticus explains the importance of understanding others before judging them in terms that both Scout and I could understand. Struggling to put his advice into practice, Scout ultimately succeeds in living with empathy as she grasps and accepts her neighbor’s perspective near the end of the novel. Like Scout, I applied this suggestion to my pressing questions regarding the boy’s remark. I realized there was no justifiable answer: His comment came from a place of judgment and ignorance. I told myself that he probably didn’t know any better. My hijab — a headscarf — was enough for him to instantly judge and label me as something I’m not. So many emotions flowed through me in that very instant. I was shocked, but confused. Angry, yet sad. Disgusted, though helpless. Feelings beating against each other, I mainly concerned myself with understanding why the boy called me that. Spending the next few days and nights pondering why, my young simple-minded self gave up. On almost every page, I cultivated a new understanding of ethics and morality from my literary hero. But, the greatest lesson I learned from him came in the third chapter when Atticus enlightens his daughter with unforgettable insight regarding judgment. I was 10 years old when I faced racism for the first time in my life. And I still remember it vividly. I came to the conclusion that there wasn’t anything I could do to change what he said, but I could choose to grow from the experience. Though the boy hadn’t given an extra second to view things from my perspective, I knew I wouldn’t do the same. I chose to give him the benefit of the doubt and not blame him for being ignorant. And if he was, I hope that he learned to be tolerant toward others. So to the boy who judged me before knowing me (whoever you are), I hope that you have now learned to think before you speak and belittle others but, more importantly, know that I forgive you. Beyond making snappy judgments, we must commit to doing what Atticus taught Scout. It’ll take time and patience to replace our behavior of judging others with understanding other people’s perspectives. Nevertheless, this life lesson is invaluable and one that has the power to greatly enhance the lives of many. So tomorrow, try walking in someone else’s shoes before jumping to conclusions. And the day after, work toward viewing a situation through another’s eyes before belittling them. (Sara Heymann | Daily Trojan) And I say we change this. At USC, I’ve seen how dangerous and cruel unjust judgments can be. From the Fluor flooding incident in which Latinx students received racist comments to untrue rumors containing hateful rhetoric against particular presidential and vice presidential campaigns that were spread around during USG elections, most — if not all — of us have either judged others without empathy or have been on the receiving end. We are all victims of living in a society that welcomes bias and judgment. Taking it day by day, I encourage us all to stop judging a book by its cover. Aisha Patel is a freshman writing about fiction in parallel to current events. Her column, “Fiction but Fact,” runs every other Wednesday.