Bias, stereotypes, and prejudice. Oh my?

In case you didn’t know (and because I’m a closet selfish person who thinks it’s a holiday), tomorrow is my birthday. 

The older I get the more I contemplate things in my life. No need to recap my history, but I’ve been alive long enough to understand some things just by observation. 

Like we can be good, but the bent toward evil plagues us all. For all my backslid ways, I recognize and acknowledge the hand of God and our innate battle to do the right thing. I battle it everyday. 

I also recognize that many times there’s something good that crops up out of terrible situations even if we can’t see it until years later. 

Another thing that is always apparent to me is the role bias/prejudice can play in how we deal with people. We are human and mentally require a way to understand things in our lives. We are prone to classify things in boxes to keep things sorted and that sorting can end up with labels that affect how we interact with our world. 

I’ve harped on stereotype and prejudice because they aren’t the same. One can be harmless and the other can lead to lynchings and shootings. I’m going to give a short, sparkly talk on what’s on my mind and perhaps one day I’ll do a better post on this. 

First my definitions of things. 

Stereotype: super simple view of a group. All women… All little girls wear pink. All men… 

Prejudice: when those views are morphed into something not found in truth leading to hostility, fear, and violence. 

I expect people to have some stereotypical views especially when you’ve never encountered that people group. What gets hard is when people refuse to recognize and let go of those stereotypes. When you can’t see how you may be biased, you can’t understand the struggles of the other group. 

Let me mention my own bias that I recognize. When I’m at work, I automatically see all doctors as nasty demagogues who treat nurses like crap. That’s my experience and it’s hard to shake that particular bias and how it affects my relationships with physicians. When I work with drug users who put their newborn at risk, I also struggle. I also see my own fear and bias when I live in a predominantly white/rural area. It was in a rural area that I had my run in with someone shouting racist epithets. Nothing is scarier and isolating than a true terror that comes when you aren’t sure if your skin color could result in someone attacking you. I’ve met many welcoming people, believe me! It’s not an unfounded view, but it’s hard to shake it when I’m somewhere more rural. 

I struggle against my bias. Mine is more of how the behavior of others can hurt me, but I’m sure I hold other beliefs that make me avoid helping those I should. 

Our current social climate is tense. We as a people group don’t realize how deep our collective bias/prejudice runs. We can’t see it so we don’t change it. In movies, it’s the automatic roles that those of color or women fall into and the way we don’t question it. The gangster, the bimbo, the ghetto queen. Those stereotypes stem from our own incomplete understanding of people.things rutted in age old beliefs. 

Bias can and does affect certain people’s ability to get a job. How many studies exist showing how equally qualified individuals are side by side and interviewers don’t even give the person with the more ethnic name a chance. People argue that it’s the company’s right, and I’m not disputing that. What I’m trying to get people to see is that the bias exists and people are ignored and put at a disadvantage because of it. 

We all like to believe we are sinless when it comes to sexism, racism, any ism but the truth is some of our isms are societal and taught. It’s engrained and subtle. We are not absolved just because we say “society made me think it”. We have a responsibility to recognize and change our prejudices. There is no free pass simply because you are a Bible believing Christian. You need to open your eyes and see if your bias is making you treat others as less than. 

For example…

If you ever said,”they should get off their butts instead of leeching off the government and support themselves.” What makes you say that? How is it changing your willingness to be a possible champion? How does it help you to ignore the need in this group? 

I’m no wrist slapper and I’m not here to shine a light in anyone’s eyes except my own. But… If your pupils dilate and you see a little better, everyone wins. 

So, back to traveling, huh?

Travel on, road warrior