“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”Activist and Author
Biases are the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions and decisions unconsciously. Everyone has biases, and they are activated involuntarily and without our conscious awareness or intentional control. In fact, our brains are biologically designed to make sense of the world using these quick judgments. Although bias is automatic, with intentional effort, we can learn to change the way we think and challenge the negative or harmful biases we hold.
Bias can be positive or negative. Bias can be dangerous and, when mixed with power and privilege, can create inequitable outcomes for society’s most vulnerable people. Bias does not just sit within people; it is often used as the basis for decision-making and the rationale behind actions that we take. Bias can influence actions that are discriminatory. It can surface and perpetuate into collective conversations when defending harmful actions.
It’s important to not only understand bias as a concept, but to do self-reflection work that uncovers personal biases and learn to develop counter-behaviors. Here are some examples of how bias can result in discrimination and inequitable outcomes:
These examples show the relationship not only between bias and decisions, but bias and power. Bias is a tool that upholds our current systems of inequity and maintains white supremacy.
White Supremacy is racial power that denotes a system of structural or societal racism that privileges white people over others, regardless of the presence or absence of racial hatred. White racial advantages occur at the collective and individual levels. Both people of color and white people can perpetuate white dominant culture, resulting in the overall disenfranchisement of Black, Indigenous, and other people of color in many aspects of society.
Today you will explore more examples of bias and the relationship between bias and inequitable systems. As you move through the materials, we encourage you to begin reflecting on how bias has shown up in your own life and how your own bias has impacted your decision-making.