We had a discussion at work this week about unconscious bias. It could have been one of those bland, safe bureaucratic webinars that would let us check off a box saying we addressed a problem. But the moderator let it become a discussion of what kind of biases we all see at work every day. Some of my colleagues talked about their direct experiences with biases against race, gender, age, and even job status. It was a good discussion and follow-up discussions are planned. The lines of communication are meant to stay open.
Talking about these biases, slights, and aggressions acknowledge that they exist. But acknowledgement is not enough now. Vague statements, new task forces or working groups, or any of the other watered down tropes Jenica Rogers shared on Attempting Elegance are not enough now. We need to call out all of those biases, slights, and aggressions when we see them. Our minds need to be open enough to recognize our own biases when we are called out on them. Not just now when we are hyper-aware, but in the future, when we think things have returned to “normal.”
Will I be brave enough to stick my neck out when the time calls for it?
I don’t like getting my hopes up. A lot of things that I hoped for have been dashed apart before. I foresee a lot of companies (say, the NFL) not following up on their lip service with any real plans to right their past wrongs. And the message will always be ignored by those willfully acting deaf.
We have been brought up on the prejudices of our forebears, and those prejudices are pernicious, even in those of us who think we know better. But they can be overcome. And right now, I have hope that fundamental problems in the United States are going to be addressed.
Maybe we’ll even make quick progress on resolving them too. Maybe.
The final line of Angels In America has been resonating in my mind a lot lately. It feels apropos right now:
“We won’t die secret deaths anymore. The world only spins forward. We will be citizens. The time has come. Bye now. You are fabulous creatures, each and every one. And I bless you: More Life. The Great Work Begins.”
– Prior in “Epilogue: Bethesda”
Angels In America by Tony Kushner