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    Saturday
    Mar242012

    The Ultimate Price of Unconscious Bias

    

    This week the picture of Mohamed Ali in a black hoodie has gone viral—a sense that even The Greatest must feel lucky, “there but for the grace of God…”  

    The death of Trayvon Martin in Florida last month is every mother’s worst nightmare. It is not the cause of African American, Latino, Asian, or any one ethnicity or race of children. This child’s death is every child’s death at the hands of conscious and unconscious bias.  For George Zimmerman it meant something to see a young, black man wearing a hoodie, walking in an upscale neighborhood.  In a month or two it will be another person’s bias about a young Asian man wearing a leather jacket at a mall, later it will be a Latino youth carrying a back pack outside a fast-food shop or a white teenager wearing all black clothes.  We will grieve again. We will hold rallies. We will write essays.   

    Every mother has argued at one time or another with their child, “are you wearing THAT to school?” We have pleaded, “please get home before dark”.  We have all said, “it is not you that I’m worried about, it’s the others out there that I don’t trust”.  And now we can add another: “take that hoodie off”. 

     It’s pointless of course. It is just a false sense of security that the life of our children can be protected from a deadly equation of motive and opportunity.  Murder is motivated by a myriad of emotions that are triggered by an equally broad range of factors.  We cannot possibly give warnings to our children about every combination of emotion and triggers to avoid among strangers.  Some of Zimmerman’s friends have said he was not a racist.  And I would suggest that he might successfully argue he was not aware of how much he was motivated by hate or racial prejudice—this is the true challenge of unconscious bias.  Everyone one of us has a range of unconscious bias--beliefs and assumptions--that we act on in an instant. We see an African American walking toward us and without thinking clutch our handbag, clench a fist.  We see a group of Latino young men together and assume they are gang members. For Zimmerman, his unconscious bias met up with a deadly opportunistic accomplice—a lethal weapon.

    We should all worry about the hate speech that crowds the airwaves and blogosphere but the real work in an increasingly diverse world is to call attention to the unconscious bias we harbor that places us all in jeopardy. 

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      OLE' --One Latina Empowered - Musings - The Ultimate Price of Unconscious Bias
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    Reader Comments (1)

    Wow. Maria, this is excellent. This statement "Murder is motivated by a myriad of emotions that are triggered by an equally broad range of factors" is stunning. "Unconscious bias" is equally a powerful term. I was born in eastern Kentucky. If you know about the Hatfield and McCoy feud, then you know where I'm from. I remember moving from KY to OR and not getting a teaching job my first year there. My endorsement was in Spanish, which a year later I discovered was heavily needed when I had interviewed. Furthermore, I did not even get a call to "sub" for that specific district, yet again, the next year Spanish teachers blurted out over and over, "we needed Spanish speaking subs like crazy last year!" I speculate that it was due to my accent. I may be wrong, maybe it was unconscious bias on the gatekeeper's part (Who knows?) but there is evidence there was a bias because my accent comes across as "uneducated" or on the "hillbilly" side of things. Through taking an African America literature course (my favorite) in college and through having been a high school Spanish teacher (and someone who enjoys speaking the language with native speakers), I've seen a array of things related to unconscious bias. It's like a deep programming that needs to be rewritten. I do feel that awareness is the starting point, which you referenced with "call attention to". Many times, I share with clients that life is about three things: awareness, attitude and action. WIth this I feel it's an awareness of the bias existing in the first place, an attitude/mindset that will explore it, uncover things and shift to a better, healthier place and then expressing the new mindset through action, which is a form of proof or evidence. I'm not close to an expert on these things and it's almost midnight and it's been a long good day here, so hopefully my sharing of words has been received well and clearly as intended. Anyway, just a powerful article here. I'm so glad I read this! THANK YOU for the work you are doing. It carries an inestimable value.

    April 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEric Johnson MBA

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