We’re taking a long, slow look at bias — that set of unconscious attitudes or stereotypes that inform our behavior without our being aware — this week. And, given the news we’re surrounded with, it’s timely.
My first introduction to “bias” was in 8th grade Home Economics class where I learned just how difficult it was to “cut on the bias.” (There’s a metaphor in there somewhere.)
I was also taught (in that grade school exercise I mentioned in last week’s post) that bias is different from prejudice.
My teacher said the difference resides in whether or not facts are involved (bias, yes; prejudice, no).
I want to make a further distinction, that of conscious awareness.
conscious awareness: prejudice, yes; bias, no.
While it was quite easy for me to identify “motorcycle riders” as a group I wanted nothing to do with, my biases are less clear to me. I’m sure I have them. We all do. But are we aware of them? Can we name them?
I’ll go one better. I’ll wager that we can all identify bias in people close to us (or even some not so close) yet believe we ourselves are quite free of bias. At least the kind that results in unfair or stereotypical behavior toward others.
Ethnocentrism — the idea that our own culture is the “right” one — is a particular favorite bias of mine.
Of course, THIS is the right way; it’s the way it’s always done.
This only means we haven’t yet met enough people.
Today though, my attention is focused here at home.
We are engaged in this country in a battle over what is right, what is decent, what is true.
It’s a battle …
over who can use which bathroom,
over who can buy guns,
over when life begins,
over who can vote,
over who we should allow across our borders,
and over whether racism thrives.
To survive this battle, it seems to me, we first need to understand our own biases.
For anyone who knows me, you know my spiel that
for every finger you point at someone else,
you’ve got three more pointing back at you.
So, the job we have is to look at ourselves, for we are, really, the only ones we have any control over.
In that spirit, I’ve begun to reexamine my own assumptions about racism, and the patterns of institutionalized white privilege that have long surrounded me.
Will you join me?
Here’s a fun and fascinating link from MTV that offers two short quizzes, testing your own bias on gender and race.
Or this one from the folks at understanding prejudice (dot org)
And here’s a graphic that narrows a list of over 150 different biases down to the top twenty. It’s put out by Business Insider.
So, there’s research out there on bias, whether from university social psychology departments or the financial services industry.
Let’s test it out:
Before we go further, just note your reaction to that logo.
Any judgments? Any memories? Any associations?
Do you remember the first time you heard their name?
Do you counter Black Lives Matter with All Lives Matter?
Do you feel you’d support the goals of the Black Lives Matter movement if only they’d speak more softly, be more polite, know their place, wait their turn?
Do you hear yourself saying, “Color doesn’t matter to me; I’m colorblind.” And, its natural consequence, do you hesitate to even mention skin color to the blacks you meet?
You can read more about the Black Lives Matter movement on their website.
Have you seen the five-minute video of the “Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist?” Broadway show? (It spoofs Sesame Street). Do you think its funny? Do you agree with their claim?
I don’t have anything particularly wise or at all entertaining to leave you with today. My aim is not to talk you out of any of your biases.
I have only a request for you to pay attention to their impact, identify them, maybe understand where they come from.
And vow to not let them color your compassion.
How about you?