The celebrated actor Liam Neeson became unpopular overnight.
He shared a story in 2019 about one of his close friends who was raped by a Black man, and how it drove him into an irrational frenzy. He said he became so enraged hearing her experience, that for the next few days he felt he might have killed any “Black bastard” he saw on the street. Luckily for all, he didn’t come across any.
He explained how he was, to some degree, helpless against this feeling. His emotions hijacked all rationality temporarily. However, it can certainly be asked that if he found out his friend’s rapist was White, would he be ready to kill any white man he saw on the street? Probably not. Because HE is white — so he knows for a fact that at least not ALL white men are bad.
For now, we live in a strange time of the coronavirus wreaking havoc on all aspects of our lives and careers. Naturally, having to bear this yearlong, ongoing trauma of fear, loneliness, and anxiety has had an impact on our minds. It has resulted in blaming, judgments, and discrimination/separation.
The bearers of this blame in the US have been Asian Americans.
But why blame anyone at all? Where does that get us?
Well, humans revel in being able to place blame. In the desire for power and superiority, it offers a feeling of satisfaction to be able to say that someone is wrong, so that we can be “right.” To say that we are victims to someone else’s atrocities.
That, and to conveniently put people in boxes based on anecdotes and very limited data — “if I experienced it, it must be the way it is in general, right?”
Judgment turns out to be very convenient by offering the ability to not need to think as much. Thinking takes up time and effort.
So fear of the unknown + traumatic imprint + blame game + lazy mind = bias.
Our rational brains developed for a reason, albeit later in our development. The rational brain gives us some more options for dealing with challenges. It enables us to be creative and resilient.
Well, those are a lot of layers to get through, and no one really wants to dive into THAT mess during the work day.
Another Approach to Bias
The typical diversity training in the workplace, essentially, prescribes a set of “dos and donts.” One way is right, the other way is wrong — there is no gray area or deeper exploration.
This type of training is ok for keeping things functional, if that’s the goal. However, if the goal is to THRIVE with diversity as a a competiitve advantage, something more is needed.
These types of ‘rules’ do very little to address microaggressions and bias in the workplace, which manage to creep in stealthily regardless.
So how to fix this?
The biggest problem that separates us is the lack of first hand knowledge. We hear strange and scary stories in the media. We hear rumors all around of weird, alien practices, conspiracy theories, and more.
All of that makes it so difficult to trust someone from a different culture or background.
But we find, most times, that when we take the time to get to know someone’s personal story, those scary ideas and judgments disappear.
We start to see them as a human being, like us, who just had to deal with different life circumstances and challenges. Most importantly, they start to make sense to us.
And slowly, that understanding bridges us closer and replaces our fears and biases.
We replace past thoughts with present experiences, forever growing and learning and changing.