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Do we know when we are being biased? PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, April 17, 2013 1:04 PM

VAN WERT - The YWCA of Van Wert County welcomed Courtnee Carrigan of the YWCA in Columbus to speak to interested locals about unconscious bias and the effect it can have in the workplace, at home, between relationships, and in the community. A meal was provided by Van Wert Manor to guests attending this educational event.
Carrigan’s main expertise is race, class, and gender, as it is these subjects that really “get her going.” She began her talk by presenting attendees with the Herman Grid, a grid of black squares, equal in size with white space in between. While looking at the squares, each person began to notice grey spots in the white space, spots that were not actually present in the image.

“We believe what we see is real,” said Carrigan. “Everyone has it.”

Carrigan explained that these nonexistent dots are like biases. People see them and believe and know they are there when, in most cases they are not. These grey spots can represent the biases people place on women, children, the elderly, racial minorities, people in wheelchairs, and many more.

According to Carrigan, unconscious bias is often not recognized for what it is. People believe set stereotypes to be true and often do not realize that they may be hurting themselves or others. Often times, these biases are passed down to young people from their family and grandparents.

Carrigan went on to say that biases can affect an interview and whether or not someone even receives a job. A study done by MIT showed that people often did not get an interview or job depending on their name and the bias that proceeds it. School teachers are another professional that can highly affect others by their own person stereotypes. Children may get less attention and a completely different education based on whether they are male or female, rich or poor, or white or black.
“Stereotypes are not our friends,” reminded Carrigan. “They hurt us. Oftentimes negative stereotypes come to our minds before the positive, but there are ways to combat these hidden biases. We must recognized that human brain make mistakes without us even knowing it. We need to unlearn some behaviors because we are all bias. I have done diversity work for 15 years and even I still have biases.”

People attending the speech were each assigned a group that is commonly stereotyped and asked to list the first biases that come to mind about this particular group. Whole lists were made to describe these stereotypes, and Carrigan reminded that these stereotypes do not define every person in this group as we are all unique individuals with unique personalities and traits.

Carrigan encouraged Van Wert locals to support projects that contain positive images in support of other people of all types and to collaborate with affective programs that inspire diversity.


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