Graphic designed by Evan Brooks.
There are a lot of issues in the world we live in, a lot of complaints that can be made about our country and a lot of flaws that can be examined regarding our university; but it is what we do with the knowledge that really matters. We are all flawed, no one is perfect, but it is those imperfections that not only make us who we are, but allow for a diverse background of thought.
Biases are a great example of flaws that most everyone holds, we may not realize them always, especially when we are acting on them, but we should strive to investigate what they are and how we can move further away from them. We make mental opinions on people all the time; it is how we are hardwired. As we walk down the sidewalks to our classes, we examine most everyone that passes by us. It is ingrained in us that we make quick, split-second assumptions on those that enter our environment.
Some of our evaluations of individuals we pass can be biased based on previous encounters or stories of individuals of similar looks, such as if they are wearing a suit or not or something as minute as the kind of shoes the individual is wearing. We literally judge books by their covers, and how we judge them is determined by our biases.
In an article published by the Washington University in St. Louis by Rose Miyatsu, it is stated that “…biases can be completely neutral, like a bias for Coke over Pepsi, and can even be helpful in allowing you to make decisions more rapidly.” In other words, not all biases have negative outlooks, however, biases “…can be harmful when people allow them to impact their behavior toward certain groups.”
The harmful impact of biases is exacerbated when individuals have more power, the examples given in the article being: “…healthcare professionals, employers or law enforcement officers.” So, how do we curb our harmful biases? The first step is recognizing what our biases are and where they come from, so we can better observe them in action and catch them before we act on them.
Our perceptions on certain issues lead to our unconscious biases, and these perceptions can be formed after reading an article, being told by someone you look up to, or you are exposed to an event that is the exception to the rule. To combat this, we must ground ourselves and be preemptive, by being skeptical about the information we take in. It is pertinent that we cross reference everything before we perceive it as fact.
We must cast away the thought of “just because it happened to me, it must happen to everyone,” or “it must be true.” It is also imperative that before you act, you think through the action you are about to commit, and why you want to proceed with your first response. Our reactionary response to a situation may not be the best course of action and may be motivated by ingrained biases. In other words, it is consequential to understand why you do what you do — and subsequently — why you want to do what you want to do.
Being inherently blind to the world around us, is not our foundational state of being; we are innately curious. Use that curiosity that helped us develop during our early stages of life to continue to develop our views of the world and break down harmful biases that have negative consequences.
Evan Brooks is a fourth-year Business Management major with minors in Economics and Civil & Professional Leadership. EB916132@wcupa.edu