I must say that I have learned more about equity, diversity, bias, and inclusivity in the past year than I have during my entire adult education. Lately, students, faculty, and staff have been doing training sessions and reflective practice where I work. We are engaged in these activities because of our current national and global environment.
I like that our entire school community has participated in these events. Personally, I think that a mutual commitment helps to solidify the efforts for a shared vision. I have also opted to serve on our inclusion and diversity council as part of my commitment to facilitating awareness.
I am sure that you have heard a wise person say, “The more you learn, the more you understand what you don’t know.” Hence, the process has been eye opening for me. I think that some of the people that I work with are brave because they have begun to unpack their insecurities in a very public forum.
I have been learning how to express myself and ask questions, not just regular questions, but difficult questions about diversity and inclusion. Then there are questions that I need to ask other people about their beliefs. I am learning to listen while suspending judgment.
Suspending judgment has led me to my current reading materials. This week I have been learning about implicit bias. Guess what! I am biased, and you are too. There is no way to get away from it. We often seek to address explicit bias, but it is implicit bias that is deeply interwoven within our unconscious minds. Implicit bias subliminally manifests itself and impacts the people around us. See these videos by BruinX (2016a and 2016b) from the University of California, Los Angeles’ Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.
I also watched a LinkedIn video by Vernā Myers and Arianna Huffington titled “Confronting Bias: Thriving across Our Differences.” One point that resonated with me was that you don’t necessarily have to be trying to reject someone to be exclusive. It sometimes happens when we settle into our “birds of a feather” behaviors.
Let me provide some examples. Have you ever assumed that someone came from a good family because you knew their relatives? Have you automatically locked your car door because you felt that you were in danger? Do you routinely “go with the flow” during a meeting for decision making instead of listening for ideas from new colleagues? Have you ever automatically connected with alumni from your university because you had something in common? Do you gravitate to students with similar creative interests?
I have done those things because much of what we do is based on implicit bias. It is natural to us. Our brain is automatically programmed for us to make decisions based on things that are familiar to us.
Another point that Myers made during the video is that we all have a cultural lens that we use to view the world. Because the lens is our usual way of thinking, we are not aware that it might be offensive and exclude others. While diversity compels us to identify with numbers related to characteristics, inclusivity requires action. Policies and cultural practices should cultivate inclusivity. An inclusive environment permits individuals from every background to grow and share their expertise. We need to nurture environments that support diversity and encourage inclusivity.
One is not necessarily bad because of biases. I think the important thing is for us to go on a self-awareness journey. As Myers suggests, I am going to humble myself. I will pay attention to differences that make me uncomfortable to be aware of my actions. I believe this is an aspect of the leadership that AASL encourages us to practice. I need to understand how I interpret others and what I can do to know how other people want to be treated. Myers refers to this behavior as the “platinum rule.”
Do you want to move beyond the “golden rule” to the “platinum rule?” Project Implicit (2020) at Harvard studies bias behaviors. The project offers fourteen tests including skin-tone, religion, and gender-career biases. Each test is free. Please note that some critics have challenged the accuracy of the tests because one may have different scores throughout the year. See this link if you are interested in learning more about your biases: https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/selectatest.html. You might be surprised when you read your test results. Also, there are several more videos from the University of California, Los Angeles’ Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. Finally, I have listed professional development opportunities (some are related to diversity and inclusion) below the references.
BruinX. 2016a. “Implicit Bias Lesson 1: Schemas. https://youtu.be/OQGIgohunVw
BruinX. 2016b. “Implicit Bias Lesson 2: Attitudes and Stereotypes. https://youtu.be/7FgqGAXvLB8
Manascan. 2020. Peapod [Image]. https://pixabay.com/photos/peas-pod-pea-pod-green-fresh-580333/
Myers, V. and A. Huffington. 2018. “Confronting Bias: Thriving across Our Differences. https://www.linkedin.com/learning/confronting-bias-thriving-across-our-differences/how-can-you-prevent-yourself-from-saying-the-wrong-thing?u=74650474
Project Implicit. 2020. “Take a Test.” https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/takeatest.html
Author: Daniella Smith
Daniella Smith, PhD. is a former school and public librarian. She is currently the Hazel Harvey Peace Professor in Children’s Library Services at the University of North Texas.