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Let's Disrupt Hidden Biases
Martin Luther King Jr. said, "Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will." Is there a way to gently and meaningfully reveal our hidden biases?

[If I were doing a workshop, I would first show my video. It's called: We Can Understand Others. You can also find it under the Resources section (posted on Mar 16, 2021). The video uses a common, non-controversial lived experience (shopping), to show that we often don't even understand our loved ones. We have a lot of blind spots. More importantly, our rich experiences can be used to see ourselves in our loved ones (empathy), and see the best in our loved ones (positive regard/admiration). Then I would do the following exercise.]


I have a thought experiment. What if we all had to wear a pin button (or a sticker) on our shirts for a week? Imagine that the pin button had one of the following messages on them:


โ€œPolice feel threatened by me.โ€

โ€œPeople think Iโ€™m lazy.โ€

โ€œPeople think Iโ€™m too emotional and indecisive.โ€

โ€œPeople think Iโ€™ll always put my family ahead of my career.โ€

โ€œI didnโ€™t graduate from a top school.โ€

โ€œI donโ€™t belong to the right country club.โ€

"People associate me with COVID."

"People think I want to hurt businesses."

"People think I hate immigrants."

"My parents live in the projects and don't speak English."

"My child is recovering."

"I was diagnosed when I was 13."

"My parents brought me here when I was 10."

"I believe in small government."


What if society forced these pin buttons on us, and we had no control over what they said? What if we had to wear these pins for the rest of our lives?

We can go around asking people, โ€œHow would you feel if police were statistically more likely to kill you because of the way you dressed or looked?โ€ People would probably agree that it wouldnโ€™t be fair. But the whole idea might soon be forgotten as an intellectual exercise.

Itโ€™s a different issue if I use a prop to draw police officersโ€™ attention to you, if I make them more likely to scrutinize your actions, through no fault of your own. Itโ€™s more personal.

The same thing goes for the other labels. What if I were able to, through no fault of your own, persuade people that you're not a desirable worker, that you're tied to a deadly disease, that you're a crazy or bad person? Discrimination comes in many forms. Everyone can be judged lesser in some way and suffer from discrimination in some form.

I've been fortunate. Other than the rare racial slur, I don't feel I've suffered much from discrimination. But I have felt unfairly treated and trapped in work situations. Some of you may feel unhappy and trapped in relationships. You have to expend energy dealing with negative stuff. You can't be your best self. It's tiring and it's frustrating. That's part of discrimination, and it's no fun.

Now letโ€™s take my thought experiment to the next level. What if many of us wore these pin buttons around the same time, for example, the first one around Black History Month? If we deliberately assigned negative stereotypes to people not usually associated with those attributes, could we help law enforcement see their hidden biases? Would this exercise change any of Chauvin's jurors' minds?

What if we randomly wore pin buttons year round, to remind ourselves to work against discrimination? Could we reduce discrimination across society? What if we included this as part of diversity training? How much impact would this have?

For my fellow Weavers out there, what new labels can you come up with? What negative attribute can you assign to someone who isn't usually associated with that label (make the form of discrimination fairly obvious without naming it)?

The common advice to put ourselves in other peopleโ€™s shoes is often not specific enough. It doesnโ€™t always help us fully appreciate the discriminations others face. Letโ€™s disrupt discrimination across society and open eyes by labelling everyone instead!

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