Tuesday, November 29, 2016

These Three Words (And I'm Not Talking Stevie Wonder)

We all have it. Regardless of whether we want to admit to it or not, it's there. It's all around us. It's in every one of us. If it were a natural resource, we could inexhaustibly mine, drill, and cultivate it for decades. It won't damage the earth's ozone layer, nevertheless it causes its own version of "global warming".

It's called implicit bias.

For those who don't know, implicit bias is the idea that we hold attitudes and stereotypes that affect our understanding and subconsciously influence our thoughts, actions and behavior towards others. And as I said earlier, we all have it. This becomes problematic when those decisions, actions, and behaviors negatively impact a specific demographic. Some try to suggest or sell the idea that it does not exist or it is not that important of an issue, when it truly does and is. Especially when it come to issues related to justice, equal treatment under the law, and social acceptance.

Here's one example of implicit bias...thanks to Linkin Bridge, one of the runners-up on America's Got Talent 2016:

Here's another Linkin Bridge moment.

Want more proof? Here it is in three words.

I started this blog on a flight to Texas, and I'm quite sure that if someone on the plane saw me type these three words, implicit bias undoubtedly would've kicked in. (And it possibly would be the reason why I didn't get the second beverage I requested.) And it would've undoubtedly generated a hot take, passionate beef, or sharp retort...and we have all heard about 80% of them. I give that percentage precisely because every possible take, beef, or retort is a subsidiary of one of the following four categories:

-That's a racist statement because all lives matter.

-That's a loaded statement targeted unfairly, insensitively, and combatively towards law enforcement.

-That's a divisive statement due to the disruption and level of dissension caused by activists and supporters connected to the movement that espoused this concept.

-That's a true statement based on the historical and current narrative of Blacks in America and their lawful right and desire to be valued by all Americans.

Depending on what color ray of the American prism on which you tend to focus the most, we all have a response, spoken or silent...and many of them are viscerally stoked. Yet the percentage remains at 80% because there is one response that is rarely heard audibly (from a non-Black person or Black person largely unaffected by the typical perils of the African-American experience), but speaks with each negative act that intentionally or unintentionally impedes the positive progress and livelihood of Blacks and clearly influenced by implicit bias:

No they don't. Or hardly as much as all the other ones.

Implicit bias training is now being encouraged in certain work environments. Problem is all of us will not get the training. Many of us unfortunately will not be offered the course. And some of us will "phone it in", take home the certificate of completion only for it to collect dust on our trophy shelf, and press the mental "factory reset" button...knowing good and well there is a software (or in some cases, hardware) update available.

I know this far too well. I have been employed in both the public and private sector. Some press the button as soon as they leave the training room...and the results are evident. So the training is usually only as good as the person willing to apply and implement it, for the benefit of all parties involved. If you're not that invested, you're not that motivated to be a part of the solution...and inherently content to remain part of the problem, since the problem doesn't affect your bottom line.

When it comes to Black lives, implicit bias is not a red herring. It is the centuries-old elephant in the room that others cannot or refuse to effort to see, and Black folk have seen grow up from a baby. Conversely, Black people in many ways are self-aware of their implicit bias. We root for other Black people who "keep it real", do "big things", and ultimately "remember where they came from". Historically, many Blacks have either heard or used labels to reveal their implicit and explicit bias: Uncle Tom/sell-out, Oreo/wannabe, thug/gangsta, church boy/girl, etc. Deserved or undeserved, those are the pejoratives. And those are just some of the ones that apply to other Black people. I'm not even going to delve into the ones for other demographic groups.

Blacks born into and borne out of the trials and tribulations of being Black in America can tend to innately smell the stench of implicit bias gone sour. Implicit bias is not necessarily evil in and of itself. If the "powers" were and are used for good, Blacks would and may possibly be seen in a much more positive light and given the benefit of the doubt. Not as "dangerous" and "threatening" due to the presence of higher melanin content...for starters. But we are quite afar off from that happening.

In the meantime, it would be recommended and advisable for a good number of us to sign up for some classes. Maybe this one is available: Introduction to Black Lives Matter.

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