Adrienne BoettingerTuesday,5 January 2016
2016 is just a teeny newborn — unable to hold its head upright and constantly crapping itself — and I already want to slap a ton of people. I haven’t yet because I remind myself this is unacceptable behavior but I don’t know how much longer I can restrain myself. Whether it’s candidates and pundits condemning President Obama’s executive action on gun control before they know the specifics or people defending the group of armed domestic terrorists who have seized a wildlife refuge in Oregon, my blood pressure is rising and I can’t stop my right eye from twitching.
But mainly I sort of want to slap myself. That’s because I’ve started taking a bunch of implicit bias tests and found not only do I not belong on some holier than thou soapbox, but my brain has some seriously F’d up ways of looking at things. I’ve taken a few so far and found that I slightly prefer the abled over disabled, moderately associate white people not black people with weapons, and somewhat think that men are more aligned to science and women more aligned to liberal arts.
The thing is everyone is biased. Our brains are built that way – we make associations with things to understand the world around us. It’s not right or wrong; it just is. What’s wrong is not understanding what your personal biases are and how they are potentially causing you to be an asshat. For example, I’m biased in thinking all supporters of Donald Trump are pity-party having white men who are terrified of losing their place in society. I look at them and think they’re less intelligent, more racist and reflect something terrible and diseased about America. But I know my initial bias is just that – a bias. Even though I can’t fathom it there are actually intelligent, non-assholes who support The Donald. I can’t ponder it too long or my head will explode, but I know they are out there and they have every right to believe in his rightness just as I believe in his utter wrongness.
We are in serious trouble when we think we are the only ones who know what’s really going on or that we have nothing to learn from anyone else or no reason to let someone else have their say. When we unblinkingly answer that we have no biases and think we have no racial, gender, cultural, sexual orientation, age, or other preferences in terms of whose opinion we seek out or whose side we tend to take, we need to do more than take a good hard look in the mirror. We need to do some homework on ourselves, figure out our implicit biases and work like hell to overcome them. Screw the rest of your already faltering new year’s resolutions – this is the one to make and keep. Get this one right and the repercussions will go far beyond not accidentally slapping someone for perceived jackassery.
Take the tests and see for yourself.
NPR, MTV News, Communities Digital News, Time, Huffington Post, Harvard Business Review, Breitbart, Fast Company, Boston Globe, Carnegie Mellon University, Harvard University