The Amy Cooper, central park incident involved the Vice President of a financial organization, and the Jessica Mulroney and Sasha Exeter incident, involved Jessica threatening Exeter’s means of livelihood.
In the Amy Cooper case, she was aware of her bias and privilege and used it in the wrong way to make a 911 call.
This got us thinking of people and their unconscious biases especially leaders in organizations or employees who may not be aware of their biases. A number of us aren’t aware of our biases and this is why we need to check for it.
Unconscious bias affects everyone and the question we should ask ourselves every day as individuals who seek continuous growth is whether we realize that we have biases or not.
If you are on the receiving end, you should ask yourself if there are other biases you take note of. Likewise, if you are the one making the assumptions, you should make a conscious effort to identify these biases and work towards improving yourself.
The reason for identifying these unconscious biases is because such judgments are an unfortunate part of our daily life, and affect decision making both professionally and personally.
1. Find and learn what your biases are
You need to try to expose yourself to other people different than you. Mix up with people from a different religion, race, culture, preference, etc. Listen to their experiences and learn about their culture.
While this may seem difficult at first, you could do this at work by being helpful to coworkers or becoming friends with an immigrant for example.
It is true that people of the same preferences, culture, etc tend to hang out together, especially in the workplace. This forces us to make decisions with bias by default. You end up respecting or preferring tasks done in a way you are used to, which could exclude people who may do things differently, probably even in a better way. This all happens unconsciously.
Reach out to people different, lend a helping hand to others outside your circle, go out for lunch with people different than you, eat their traditional dishes, etc. If this is too difficult to start with, read a book written by an author you wouldn’t naturally buy from. Read about a different cultural tradition, consume media from a different orientation, etc.
Opening your mind to something new will remove the ‘veil’ from your eyes and you won’t remain in your little bubble. You’ll be exposed to something different.
2. Acknowledge that you have unconscious biases
People often deny they carry biases. You’ll hear some people say: “I don’t see color.”, “I have black friends.”, or “Everyone is the same to me, I think I treat everyone equally.”
This is claiming that you are perfect. And if we are being honest, no one is perfect. We are a continuous work in progress. We are a product of how we were raised, our families, what we were taught in schools, or communities, etc.
The truth is that some of those things instilled in us and ingrained in our childhood need to be unlearned. They probably worked for that era, but now that we are knowledgable, it won’t help raise a beautiful world and we know this.
Others see what you do that doesn’t sit right with them and you need to acknowledge this as fact.
From a study, experiments using MRI to take pictures of the brain in action reveal that all people subconsciously respond to pictures of different people in different ways. Areas of the brain from the amygdala to the frontal cortex light up when we see images of another human.
The following was the result:
One person might have an instinctive fear of women. Another might have an instinctive dislike of people with blue eyes. The important point is that everyone has some bias operating below their consciousness.
If you’re human, you have unconscious biases. We acquire them through socialization, our upbringing, media, and education.
And now that the dominant discussion in the world is in relation to Amy Cooper and Jessica Mulroney, we know that there is equally bias in relation to race. As a result, this is something that needs to be improved.
In the workplace, there have been conversations and researched-based evidence showing that individuals may not be hired for a role as a result of name discrimination through their resume and minorities having to “whiten their names’ or hiring managers hiring people that look like them, this is racially inclined.
Why should anyone want to change their name just because they want a job? If a person needs to change their name and actually see results as a result of whitening their name, that means there’s a problem to be solved.
If you seek to be a better person, to improve yourself professionally, then you should take note of these unconscious biases.
3. Figure out where biases likely affect your organization and educate others
Biases tend to affect who gets hired, promoted, gets a raise, who gets recognized and so much more. By identifying where bias is most likely to occur, you can become an agent for change and take steps to educate others.
For example, if you notice that in a department people of a certain race only tend to get hired, you can refer someone from a different race for the role and emphasize the qualification of the individual to the hiring manager. You could bring this up with your Human Resources department to discuss improving company policies to hiring a more diverse workforce.
You could equally start an employee resource group (ERG) to bring more awareness to people and their unconscious biases. Educating others improves them but it also helps you get more information as it’s a conversation with others.
Looking back at the Amy Cooper incident, one can only imagine what she could have done as a decision-maker in terms of hiring while she was a VP.
Now, more than ever, it’s a time to really check our unconscious biases. It’s evident in the recent happenings that there are certain behaviors that need to be unlearned. Will you do your own part in making this change?