I'm talking to myself in the title.
I had a dream last night, where a young girl (as I supposed by their voice) without a face or any discernible features aside from a single hole in the center of her face appeared to me. She called herself "Ulaen".
We sat in a cafeteria eating lunch as the janitorial staff cleaned the tables and prepared for the next rush, which would be at dinner time. Ulaen looked (I think) off into a lounge area and watched one of the women wipe a table clean. I looked too, but then she asked me something:
"Why is that woman talking to herself?"
I noticed that indeed, the woman was talking to herself. From her face, I could tell she most likely had Down's Syndrome.
"I think she's mentally impaired."
"What makes you say that?" she asked, seeming surprised at my assumption.
"Well, based on the fact that she's talking to herself, and the way her face is sort of shrunken in, which is typical of people who have Down's."
Ulaen tilted her head. I didn't know I was in for an interesting conversation.
"Don't you talk to yourself?"
"Well, yeah, I think all people do sometimes, but not extensively or in public."
"So, based on the fact that she looks different, and because she talks to herself with less restraint than you do, you think she's mentally deficient?"
"Well," I sighed, "I get what you're saying, but there are other characteristics that go with it. Sometimes they can only perform simple tasks, and sometimes they're only really capable of comprehending complex thoughts."
Ulaen made a noise that sounded like a smirk.
"So, because she looks different, talks to herself without restraint, and thinks in a different way, she's mentally impaired. That's what you're saying?"
I looked at her with regret. "Okay, fine, you've made your point."
But she didn't. I got up to throw my trash, waving for Ulaen to follow, but she didn't. She stayed at the table and didn't move. Soon, the woman we were having our discussion about was at our table, cleaning it.
Ulaen turned to her, "Hello, how are you ma'am?"
"I'm doing very well, thank you. How are you?" the woman replied.
"Great, thank you." Ulaen replied with a smile.
She walked away and led me out of the food court. "She doesn't seem mentally deficient."
We continued outside into a plaza, but she still wasn't done. She began waving to random people, saying the same general thing each time: "Hello, how are you?" "Hi, how are you doing?"
Nobody gave her a response.
"Look, Ulaen," I said, feeling as though I hadn't explained properly, "there are things anatomically that would explain what I'm trying to tell you about that woman, but I just don't know enough about it to explain it in a way you would understand."
"So," Ulaen replied, "what you have just told me is that even though you don't know enough about her supposed ailment to make a proper, objective judgment, you have deemed her to be 'mentally impaired' because she looks different, thinks different, and talks to herself without restraint."
My eyes cast down.
"Do other people make the same prejudgments based on the same factors?"
They do Ulaen. They do.