Innocent until proven guilty, or guilty until proven innocent? Does the first only belongs to optimists and the latter to pessimists? Or does the latter practices 'better be safe than sorry' or the first 'don't judge a book by it's cover?'
As Sam has mentioned many times, everything in this world, especially humans, is not simply black and white. We are all grey, and very complex creatures with various and diverse complex matters and problems.
Even though intellectually we all know that 'innocent until proven guilty' is the optimists road, preserving human rights and all, but we still can't avoid passing judgement very quickly on everyone we meet, or on every matter we encounter. This is simply because we are human in nature. We have those natural mechanisms of caution and survival whenever we encounter something, regardless of it being harmful or harmless. Yes, not everyone reacts or pass judgement the same way towards the same matter; we are indeed complex creatures. However when we do pass judgement rather quickly on others, it is simply due to our defensive mechanisms kicking in.
Say for example you meet a new friend through friends at a party. He/She seems to be the attention getter, and just started acting wild because of alcohol, and started bashing you for really embarrassing matters. You would almost immediately take him or her as a jerk and start to defend yourself; especially in front of your group of friends.
For the most of us this judgement might only last until that person is sober. But for the first hour that we have met the drunk-jerk, we made a judgement (of the person being a complete jerk) simply to enable ourselves to defend our dignity and honor.
The same goes for 'judging a book by it's cover'. I could honestly say when I was traveling with in Philly, we will be extra cautious of black men. We are not being racist, but we were only afraid and worried of our safety as a result of hearing rumors of the ghetto area of Philly. I myself have met black men who are the most gentle and intellectual individuals. However when we were in Philly, my friends and I passed judgement for our safety.
I could say that it is not easy to overcome this quick judgmental side of our human nature. I even struggled with it for a bit myself for quite a long time. A few years ago, I struggled with having the 'first impression' that muslim boys and girls that were social, drinking, leaving their five time prayers, eating pork, and could care less off their aurah and sleep around were all extremely 'bad' people. But over time, I learned that I have no right to judge.
They all are still Muslims, and they still have the chance to repent and turn a new leaf, because Allah is the All-Forgiving. In fact, they are facing huge challenges by Allah; where their ignorance of the religion and towards sin is also a sign that Allah still loves them.
Who knows they might have had a bad childhood, or dark horrible stories that caused them to be that way today. I think the main root that we pass judgement very quickly on people is because we assume that they are like us. We assume that they have the same opportunities and chances to know what we know, to learn what we learn and be able to overcome ignorance. Not everyone has the same childhood, the same family, the same house, and even the same friends! Then we start passing judgement when someone else has different values, different believes.
Learning this changed my life. I no longer pass judgement on a person ultimately because he or she is different from me even for the slightest bit, because I am now aware that they may not have the chances that I had to learn what they have yet to know; or maybe something that they do know that I am ignorant of. Hence if we do encounter those who remain ignorant, it is our duty to TELL them what we know before passing judgement. Teach it to them. Then if they still reject it, it is between them and Allah.
I am still learning too. So if I am ignorant of something, please do share with me your knowledge, and I'll gladly share you mine :)
Let us share the knowledge, then maybe the world will be a better place.
Rasulullah(saw) said "The best of charity is a Muslim who learns a knowledge and later teaches it to his Muslim brother."