By Beth Ogilvie
As a political liberal and a dedicated UU, I believe in equality and justice for all. I’d like to think I’m not prejudiced, but unfortunately the evidence is against me. I sometimes catch myself having what I call “racist moments,” or sexist moments, and recently I had an ageist/ableist moment.
- I once worked remotely with someone for 2 months before I discovered he was African American. I was shocked. He hadn’t sounded Black – he’d sounded southern like all the other North Carolinians I was working with. I honestly don’t think it was worse or better that he was Black, but had I known earlier I’d probably have been extra polite with him, which is my awkward way of trying not to appear racist.
- Sometimes when driving I notice another driver doing something crazy and catch myself thinking “It’s probably a woman.” Argh! I’ve been a feminist for 40 years and I still have thoughts like this.
- Recently I had dinner with my father in his retirement home and another resident joined our table. His head was lolling over to the side, and I thought “Oh no. He looks completely gaga and I’m going to have to look at him all through dinner.” But then he lifted his head and asked an engaging question, and it turned out he was very alert and “with it,” and we had a lovely dinnertime conversation.
Blindspot – Hidden Biases of Good People, by Mahzarin Banaji and Anthony Greenwald, is about these hidden biases. It’s for those of us who would like to think we don’t have biases. It presents the latest research on bias and stereotypes, and it has tests we can take – or links to the online versions – to see what hidden biases we have. For me, the racial bias test confirmed my suspicion that I have a moderate preference for white people over black. Sigh. The book talks a lot about how difficult this can be to face, for those of us who have long thought we were free of all that. It’s important not just for us as individuals but for the country – and the world. According to research, explicit (conscious) bias has fallen dramatically since the 1960s, but implicit (unconscious) bias is as strong as ever, and has a powerful impact on what we see and feel, and how we treat people. It’s what prevents us from realizing the Universalist ideal of radical inclusiveness.