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HomeCommunityCanadian Culture and HeritageUnconscious Bias: Are You Not Guilty?

Unconscious Bias: Are You Not Guilty?

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The Immigrant Life urges you to take a closer look at your unconscious biases, question your preconceived notions and challenge them. Think differently.

I came across this definition while researching the topic, which vividly captures the meaning of unconscious bias or implicit bias…

“It is often defined as prejudice or unsupported judgements in favor of or against one thing, person or group as compared to another, in a way that is usually considered unfair. Experts suggest that Unconscious bias occurs automatically as the brain makes quick judgements based on past experience and background. As a result, certain people benefit and other people are penalized….We all have biases but many unconscious biases tend to be exhibited toward minority groups based on factors such as class, gender, race, sexual orientation, ethnicity, nationality, religious beliefs, age, disability and more.”
…Vanderbilt University

From the definition, it’s obvious that unconscious bias isn’t limited to race issues, but covers a whole range of spheres. That you are a victim of one type of prejudice does not exclude you from being guilty of another.

We make thousands of decisions everyday with varying degrees of importance and magnitude. Many of our decisions are based on our understanding of the topics, the issues we hold close to or keep far from us.

The Immigrant Life urges you to take a closer look at your unconscious bias. Here are a few examples for you to do some introspection and understand where you stand.

Common examples of unconscious bias.

  • Thinking you failed an exam because your teacher hates you. Or thinking you didn’t clinch a job or got a negative reaction because of your skin color or certain other perceived bias.
  • Believing that others should be aware of an information just because you know it and then thinking, “isn’t it obvious?”
  • Tending to be relatively kind when making judgements about ourselves and have unfair favoring of someone that that belongs to your own group. This type of bias favors those similar to you, especially those of your race, kinship and family line.
  • A manager assuming that a younger person would be more apt to handle a job as opposed to an older one.
  • Assuming that women are less capable of doing “hard” jobs.
  • Thinking that someone is better at the job because they were born in Canada.
  • Judging someone from the way they talk, the food they eat, the language they speak or the clothes they wear.

For immigrants, we are so conscious of the reasons why we can’t seem to make it happen in Canada, especially based on the narratives of earlier immigrants. We get so self-conscious, that we see discrimination everywhere.

Granted that there are challenges for the average newcomer based on perception and negative realities. But beyond all that, be in a place where you think of possibilities in spite of those challenges. It’s an attitude. It’s a place. It’s a mindset and a lot of other things. You can’t afford to be reacting to every negative perception, for then you will also be guilty of implicit bias.

Once you get to that point where you want to make a difference in your spheres of influence, using your experience, your knowledge base and skill set, in spite of your challenges, then you are set on the path of progress and success here in Canada.

Be intentional in your perception. Be that person that is intent on thriving here and elsewhere too, that you refuse to be put down.

I leave you with this song I learnt in my high school taught by the late African sage, Dr Tai Solarin:

“We can become whatever we choose to be
No kings, no Lords, no Knaves can say us nay
For we believe that man is a potential doctor or lawyer or crook or dwarf or giant
Whichever he sets his mind to be…”

Consider the lines of the song.
It is instructive.
Stop playing the victim.
Stop making others, victims of the biases you hold.
Don’t be limited.
Don’t be limiting.

This article was carefully developed from Episode 63 of The Immigrant Life Podcast.

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