Listen loudly So You Can Understand
Recently I visited Washington DC to see a friend, I made my way by car through NW DC and stopped off at Giant a regional grocery store chain on Georgia avenue. I made the stop to the grocery store to pick up a few things and get a cup of coffee. Everyone was wearing a mask and practicing good social distancing because of the virus that had hit DC and New York so hard. As I was walking around as a visitor to the area I noticed the residents had a skin color generally darker than mine. As a person of mixed ancestry, my father being northern European and my mother descending from the Mediterranean I would classify my skin color as light tan.
I grew up in an area outside Detroit predominantly made up of Northern Europeans, English, German, Polish, Italian and recent immigrants from the middle east fleeing persecution. What I did not have a lot of exposure to were people of African descent or people from Asia. It wasn’t until I moved away from home that I came into contact and had meaningful relationships with people of African and Asian descent. These relationships allowed me to understand how my bias did not serve me, how it negatively impacted my openness and predisposition to Joy. Please understand my parents were extremely open and shunned bigotry and prejudice at all turns. I can even remember a time when my grandfather told a close associate of his to in his words “leave my house and do not come back until you change your attitude about all people” because the man had used a racial epithet.
Bias is a strange thing, in some cases, it seems to be social conditioning reinforced by negative media impressions. Along with fear and anticipation of a negative encounter, governing our response to people that are different from our peer group.
With all of the recent coverage of the Black Lives Matter movement and the subsequent demonstrations and marches that have taken place around our nation. I have had an opportunity to spend time helping clients talk about and work on their bias. Bias is a strange thing, in some cases, it seems to be social conditioning reinforced by negative media impressions. Along with fear and anticipation of a negative encounter, governing our response to people that are different from our peer group. We don't know them and so we revert to our conditioning or our baseline.
What I have been advising people to do is get outside of their regular peer groups and spend time with people different from themselves, I know it sounds sophomorically simple but the only way to break down bearers to your bias is to get to know people that are different.
Mark Twain used to say “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.” For us, as people of this planet to move forward and embrace each other for the brothers and sisters that we truly are, we need to know each other better. Get outside of your social circles, travel within your community, meet people with different backgrounds from different parts of town. Listen loudly so you can understand, when you travel you are doing so to learn not to teach. Go out and learn about your neighbors.