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Professor Steve Slave, Ph.D. Presents on Implicit Bias

On Monday, January 30th, we attended an excellent program on "Implicit Bias" conducted by Professor Steve Slave, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus at CSU at the CSU West Center Campus on Detroit Road in Westlake. It was overseen by Ms. Lisa Gaynier (who we have talked to at several other events) who is the Director of the Masters Program in Diversity Management at CSU and was attended by perhaps thirty people including several of our friends engaged in social justice work.

Prof. Slane displayed a slide that defined implicit bias as "a type of bias that is expressed cognitively, emotionally/attitudinally, behaviorally, and/or symbolically."

Another way of stating this appears on the website for the National Center for State Courts (www.ncsc.org) which answers the question "What is implicit bias?" by explaining, "unlike explicit bias (which reflects the attitudes or beliefs that one endorses on a conscious level), implicit bias is the bias in judgment and/or behavior that results from subtle processes (e.g. implicit attitudes and implicit stereotypes) that often operate at a level below conscious awareness and without intentional control..."

Prof. Slane believed that we are all biased in some fashion and there is no way that we can get rid of all of our biases but we can certainly do something about those that hurt people and probably the best way of accomplishing this is to concentrate on the behavior first (i.e. people in an organization should not be allowed to use sexist/racist terminology) rather than to tackle the attitude which is a lot tougher.

Nevertheless, there are some steps that can be taken that can ultimately (it takes a while) effect how a person feels about people different from herself/himself. First of all we must realize that a lot of our prejudices are based on hate, anger, and fear and, in some cases, isolation. One of the ways to deal with this is to get people together in a loosely structured, egalitarian environment. For example, we talked about the "Teatimes for Peace" that we attended where we got to converse with Unitarians, Catholics, Jews, Protestants, and Muslims.

Along these lines, a person who had immigrated to the United States from another country admitted that she had had little contact with black people in her homeland and thus she was initially fearful of them. It just so happened when she first visited the United States, the van that she and her friends were using broke down in the Hough neighborhood of Cleveland but an African-American man helped them get the van rolling again and the experience motivated her to re-evaluate her feelings.

For the duration of the two hour class time, Prof. Slane encouraged such student interaction and the results were excellent. He, himself, readily admitted that he was learning new things about himself and his biases all of the time too.

Of course, the stereotyping of immigrants was touched upon (in light of the recent Executive Orders of the Trump administration) and one person sadly lamented that our "leader" was trying to "force us into reverse behavior."

In the beginning of his presentation, Prof. Slane said he didn't have "a cure" for implicit bias but near the end of the gathering he did have some recommendations to offer which included try to be aware of stereotypes and get around them in a positive way; acquire social mindfulness by trying to see ourselves in relation to others; and slow down and try not to react with too much emotion because that is when hurtful, prejudicial statements are most likely to be made.

In terms of the organizations we represent we should work to make them as behaviorally based as possible and be alert to such micro-messaging as photos in the lobby and portraits on the walls being dominated by one ethnic group.

Above all, however, Dr. Slane emphasized that even though it is very important that our society and ourselves as individuals continue to move forward, we must not be too hard on ourselves because "we are all works in progress."

By:

Michael Patterson

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC.

 

 

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