Haunting Bias

A recent Chronicle of Higher Education article offers a great analogy: “Many of us are ready to accept that placebos can work in general, just not on us. A similar dynamic exists with implicit biases.” And yes, I think that’s probably true for many, but what about those of us who have taken the time to attend seminars, take self-assessments, learn more about others and intentionally tried to break down our own biases? I ask because sometimes I feel overly conscious of my potential for bias as a result  of all of the emphasis on implicit bias. I fluctuate, sometimes I fall into old or new bias and then later, upon reflecting on some conversation or thought I think, “oh my… how could I?” and then! sometimes, not always, I get hyper sensitive. It feels like everything could stem from bias and in these moments I think I over correct or withdraw. So, sometimes, I wish there were better ways of combating implicit biases among faculty and students– instead of mandatory (or voluntary) training, I wish there were more university sanctioned opportunities for fun and engaging cultural exchange. And, not just traveling abroad, but cultural exchange right here on campus. I often think back to the library project sponsored a few years ago where you could “check out” people and learn more about their life experience. I feel like that kind of activity is more effective, really helps us change, rather than simply being more aware of the biases we hold. Wouldn’t it be nice to sit down to coffee, lunch, dinner or a drink with someone you wouldn’t have except for wanting to know something more about someone else? Those experiences were so easy to come by when I was an undergrad, but now with family, work, class, etc. they don’t come as easy and they feel more awkward since I have to seek them out. It’s hard enough finding people who share similar experiences–I mean people to commiserate with about being a new mom, balancing work and school, etc!

I’m starting to feel like we’re over prescribing the we way people should be, should think, should act and in doing so, probably self-censoring too much. Isn’t there a better way? Instead of trying to teach us how to reflect, can’t we create experiences that foster self-reflection organically? David Gooblar, the author of the article I mentioned above suggests that the classroom can provide such an experience and I tend to agree, but is it enough? I would like to see us foster more opportunities to really connect as a community. It’s a lot to ask and to find the time, I feel like we have to give up some of our pursuit of individual success (work, class, and other things that keep us so busy).

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