This month I’ve taken time to discuss internal bias and that our individual choices can free us of these biases. Bias, like prejudice, is harmful because it keeps us from seeing each other as whole beings. More importantly, maintaining biases keeps us from accepting people who are different as still being human and authentic. The video above relates how a single story that is put upon any group has polarizing effects. It remains one of my favorite talks because it asks people to think beyond the ideas that create bias and to just accept someone’s story as who they are.
It may be difficult, but we can do this. It starts with the first decision and the first choice. Each decision to acknowledge and then ignore bias is incredibly difficult to make the first time. Trust me, I know it. The longer that we’ve been letting bias determine perception, the harder it is to stop. I go through long stints where I get exhausted or frustrated from trying to remember that someone who upsets me is a real and whole person that might have more going on in their world than is obvious to me. I’ve been susceptible to bias in my treatment of others and I’ve been treated with unfounded bias as well.
We all have a single story that we know people assume of us. My family is Cuban, so most people immediately think of Scarface. I can’t tell you how much that makes me hate that movie. Sometimes, they’ll even think of the single story for Mexican immigrants instead of the Cuban refugees which is an even bigger mistake. They use words like coyote which aren’t even associated with Cubans. But when someone at least knows about the way Cubans had reputation for coming to the US, they start in with banana boats and cigars. This has nothing to do with my life. This single story is wrong for me and most of my family and your’s probably has errors or is completely wrong too.
There is a single story version that is made for everyone. There’s the bully, the cheerleader, the homeless, the workaholic, the alcoholic, the housewife, the breadwinner. All of these have a single story that we can recall in a moment. Even if these stories are stereotypical or common, they are still wrong for many people within these groups.
Don’t let the bias of your assumed story for them get in the way of learning their real stories. Bias and prejudice recall a single story. Acceptance of people and their views, histories, and preferences allows for the multitude of stories that actually exist. Look for the true stories. See the real people, however they are.
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