Whether we like it or not, everyone has bias. As much as many of us want to think of ourselves as unbiased, we are products of our personal history, messages we’ve received growing up from people around us, the media, peers and people in authority. We’ve also learned to interpret events based on our experiences and individual perspectives. Because we are often unaware that we are being biased, we don’t question our beliefs, assumptions or actions we take as a result.
Based on our bias we make assumptions, which result in actions, which can lead to exclusion, discrimination or avoidance.
We are constantly bombarded by information and the job of our brain is to interpret and make sense of that information, and them determine what to do with it
There is a filter- the reticular activating system that helps us decide what is relevant and important and what we need to pay attention to. It filters out information that is unimportant, non=threatening and not in our perceived reality. This filter guides us in how we live our life and what we react to.
However, what is important to one me may not be important you. What I consider threatening and stressful my not be threatening and stressful to you. When a Person of Color expresses fear of law enforcement, it’s based on either experience, experiences of other People of Color and what is in the media. Too often, people who are White think that because it’s not happening to them, ti’s not happening to anyone, or they don’t have a particular bias, other people who look like them couldn’t possibly have that bias
At a luncheon recently, Claire, a White woman was raving about a shoe store in the city. Terry, a Black woman said, ” I’ve been in there twice and both times I was followed by a White woman. I think it was because I’m Black.” Claire replied,”Terry, you are paranoid. I’ve never seen the sales person follow anyone around.” A third person said,” Claire, how would you know? You’ve never been followed around a store by another White person.” We decided to test it out. I went in and the same salesperson was gracious, welcoming and left me alone. Sandra, a Black woman, and Darryl, a Black man went in separately. Both of them were followed to the point of stalking by the saleswoman. Claire was shocked that this would happen in “her” neighborhood but she saw the proof.
When someone who is different shares their experience of when they felt discriminated against, it’s insulting and offensive to trivialize their experience. There are times what happened may not be due to their skin color, religion, sexual orientation etc. and then again it might be. Don’t be quick to judge because it doesn’t happen to you. If you really want to stop bias and discrimination, get information, learn history, and give credibility to other people’s feelings and experience. Listen, learn and open your mind.