There has been a change in my pattern of commute lately. I’m spending more days driving to Columbus versus traversing across the living room to my office at home.
There were several morning commutes lately when the world was cloaked in fog. I love it when the dense mist occasionally gives way to the morning sun — a moment of clarity, if you will. It’s akin to the moments when you realize something you assumed to be true was not.
Assumptions are tricky things. Sometimes they come to us founded with analyzed data and critically considered findings. Other times, we know not from whence they came. And those are the ones that can cause the most harm.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about a particular kind of assumption — implicit bias. Implicit bias is omnipresent. Without really being aware, we are doing it; we see someone and make an assumption about them. That person is probably smart. That person is probably an artist or musician.
Implicit bias is a natural state of thinking that we all harbor. It sets up residence in our minds nurtured by things we experienced from childhood through today. You would think that since you have lived with your implicit biases all of your life, you would be well aware of them. But those assumptions are elusive and deceptive. And there is danger in letting them remain cloaked in a hazy fog. For when we are not aware of our biases, we might act on them — and without any intention we might hurt someone.
I’ve been following many Black Lives Matter conversations. And the stories shared drip heavy with implicit bias. Imagine if you just threw on some ugly jeans to run an errand. If you are white probably no big deal, but I’m reading stories of Black people having encounters where it’s assumed that they have ill intentions because of the way that they are dressed. Or try this on — let’s assume you’re at a celebration for an achievement.
Perhaps you have just graduated from medical school, you just wrote a book or you just got your pilot’s license. Whatever your dream may be — imagine you accomplished it. And at the gathering to celebrate, because of the color of your skin, someone approaches you assuming that you are a server.
Now, don’t get me wrong here. I admire servers — very much. For a variety of reasons, this is a job I should never be hired to do because I would most certainly not do the job well. The point I am making here is that implicit bias drives people to make assumptions based on the color of someone’s skin. And even something that appears benign like mistakenly asking the graduating medical student who is the toast of the party to fetch you a drink, can forever cast a dark shadow on what should have been the night of a lifetime.
We have much, much Black Lives Matter work to do. Implicit bias is one piece of the puzzle. But if we each really take the time to consider our assumptions and what they are based on, we can move to changing our patterns of thinking. We can bring the fog to lift, the clarity to come and thoughts and actions immersed in fairness to persevere.
Written and submitted by Amy Randall-McSorley for The Circleville Herald. The views of this column may not necessarily reflect that of the newspaper.