Don't Judge People by Their Tattoo

Apr 10 , 2021
By Kidist Yidnekachew ( Kidist Yidnekachew has degrees in psychology and journalism and communications. She can be reached at )

Do not judge a book by its cover, we say. But we still judge all the same. It is much worse when it comes to a living, breathing person. We often tend to judge people by their appearance, clothes or other external measurement scales. Some agree that these are superficial measurements, but some also believe that these external things reflect the internal assets a person possesses.

I witnessed this a few days ago when I was sitting in a café waiting for a friend. A tall guy covered in tattoos walked in. All eyes were on him, including that of two ladies across from my table. They were probably in their late thirties.

“I don’t understand why anyone would get tattoos, especially this many. I am sure he will regret it when he gets old,” one of them said, looking at the man. “Besides, he could get cancer, and it is a sin to get a tattoo; the fact that it's of a cross doesn’t justify it.”

One of the tattoos on the guy’s arm was a big cross, with “Faith” written inside.

“I wouldn’t want to marry a guy with tattoos as I would have to explain to everyone that he's neither a thug nor a criminal,” the other woman continued. “I also don’t think he would ever get hired by anyone and wouldn’t even get taken seriously.”

I can relate, but with the guy. There are many things one can regret in life, but tattoos do not always make a list. Sometimes they serve as a reminder of moments cherished and memories made.

Unfortunately, the entire entertainment industry has made sure to portray tattoos as the go-to look of criminals and gangsters. It is not untrue that offenders are more likely to have tattoos, according to several studies. But it is a coincidental relationship, not a causal one.

The overwhelming majority are decent people looking to add a bit more character to their skins. They do not deserve to be defined by the ink on their bodies but their personalities, experiences and abilities. Unfortunately, this advice is not heeded, especially by employers. When they are looking to hire someone for a position of responsibility, they are more likely to discriminate starting from their appearance.

Many of them are unwilling to hire anyone with tattoos and piercings. Whenever I go to a job interview, I tend to wear long-sleeve shirts not to expose my tattoo. I do it so as not to attract attention and get judged. I have witnessed how fast the look on a potential employer’s face changes the minute they notice my tattoo. Some have straightforwardly told me that I should cover it if I were ever to get the job.

I also have nose and ear piercing, which, unlike my tattoos, I do not hide whenever I go to job interviews. I have been told to take them out or never to wear them again. It is saddening that I have to be bogged down not by my qualifications and what I bring to the table but a hole on my nose and ears and some writing on my body.

It was such employers that the women reminded me of. The next person they transferred their criticisms to was a young girl in a jumpsuit that walked into the café. She went straight to the table the guy was sitting at and showered him with hugs and kisses. She was most probably his girlfriend. The two women judged the same.

Dist kidanun ayatam,” one of them said, which is a saying in Amharic about how people, no matter their shortcomings, find a match.

Then they started laughing at their quip. Fortunately, the couple was far too immersed in their own world. They were entirely oblivious to everyone else around them, including the constant judgment and dressing-down going on just a few feet from where they were sitting.

PUBLISHED ON Apr 10,2021 [ VOL 22 , NO 1093]

Kidist Yidnekachew has degrees in psychology and journalism and communications. She can be reached at

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