Let's Ditch Our Implicit Biases At The Door Before We Come Into The Workplace

Let's Ditch Our Implicit Biases At The Door Before We Come Into The Workplace

Many of today's workplace disparities stem from implicit biases that we hold in relation to age, gender, race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religion and other facets of individuality

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Yale defines implicit bias is defined as "unconscious attitudes, reactions, stereotypes, and categories that affect behavior and understanding." Implicit biases are rooted deep in our unconscious and are often difficult to fix.

I recently took the Harvard's Implicit Bias Test to identify some of my own implicit biases as they relate to race in healthcare for my "Exploring Health Professions" class. In truth, I was shocked with my own results despite my conscious efforts to be more accommodating of others and their ideas. Within healthcare, implicit biases can affect the health care provider's ability to provide adequate care for a population, particularly those who are underrepresented or come from a low socioeconomic background. The sooner we can address our biases, the sooner we can elevate the level of care that we provide to patients.

One of the greatest concerns voiced in today's workplace is "workplace discrimination," and the root cause of this problem stems from implicit biases. Workplace discrimination is what happens when our implicit biases go unchecked. The majority of the decisions made in the workplace are on a short timescale, leaving us susceptible to resort to the quickest form of decision making which is often heavily influenced by subconscious implicit biases. While fixing implicit biases might seem like an unfamiliar, and relatively new concept for many of us, it's not too different from another one of our automatic responses.

I equate biases with habits and as a result, there are two major steps: address your biases and motivate yourself to change.

The American Association of University of Women (AAUW) lists three effective ways we can fix our implicit biases. In summary:

1. When assessing an individual, focus on concrete facets of their performance as opposed to what your "gut feeling" might be leading you to believe.

2. Think of all the people who violate stereotypes in a dynamic way, and do your best to remember the positive examples. This idea is known as counter-stereotyping and lets these positive thoughts populate your mind the next time you are in a similar situation.

3. Make a commitment to increasing the diversity of the people whom you are around but also focus on the inclusion of those groups of people. Working with people whom you may have implicit biases against will help you individualize and personalize interactions to reduce implicit biases.

The adage, "If I didn't see it, it didn't happen," sadly applies to many of our own implicit biases. The dominant mentality is, "If I don't address implicit biases, I don't have them," and this ignorance is the root of many of our societal problems. In our increasingly diverse and open-minded society, there simply isn't enough room for us to harbor implicit biases. Currently, the landscape on research regarding how implicit biases may be affecting sectors of society is developing, but until it has crystallized, our best bet is to individually work on reducing our implicit biases.

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The Identity Crisis You Face As A Child of Immigrants

A letter to those who feel as though they do not belong in their parents' culture, or American culture.
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In 1975, my mother and father did something more impressive than anything I will ever do: they left their home country of Vietnam, and immigrated to the United States. While leaving Vietnam may have been daring, it was not the end of our family’s struggles. My parents learned right away that in order to thrive in America, they had to adapt. After awhile, they learned English, went to American school, and now, they are living lives similar to a non-immigrant family. They are able to enjoy life in America (within limits), but are also still very much established in their Vietnamese culture. They have assimilated, but not completely.

Now, as the son of immigrant parents, I face an identity crisis. I’m too Asian for the white kids, and too white for the Asians.

Growing up, I was pressured to “succeed” in America, and to do this, I needed to adapt in a society that wasn’t really my own. I always thought of myself as an American, as my guilty pleasures included cheeseburgers and reality TV. However, being pressured as a child to fit in with American culture caused me to become “too white” in the eyes of my parents, while at the same time, the white kids at school (I grew up in Florida, going to predominantly white schools) would insult my Asian traditions.

The issue I face now is that I am disconnected from my family, and I am also disconnected to the society I live in. My family and I have issues with communication due to my lack of knowledge of Vietnamese customs, and I am considered an outcast to white America. While not fitting in with American standards is mostly not my own fault, being apart from my Asian identity is definitely due to my own actions. I wanted so badly to fit in with white people that I ended up feeling a sense of resentment towards my parents’ culture. I was so focused on perfecting my English (in order to not be ridiculed by the white students at my school), that I never really learned Vietnamese. Nothing makes me more upset than not being able to fully communicate with members of my family, specifically my father, who enjoys speaking his native tongue. Can you imagine going 20 years without being able to really talk to someone you love?

Being 20 years old now, I feel a sense of regret, as I wish I focused more on learning about Vietnamese customs and traditions. I wish I never let myself feel ashamed for being Asian.

While the struggle of racial/cultural identity differs from person to person, I, myself, feel as though I am living within two worlds, but never really belonging to either. The sad thing many Asian Americans come to realize is that neither your Asian family nor white America will ever fully accept you, and that single feeling can make a person feel very lonely. You may enjoy using chopsticks, eating traditional food, and taking your shoes off after entering a house, but you will never really feel comfortable with who you are.

The life as a child of immigrants can be very confusing, and very lonely. You may never feel as though you have a sense of belonging anywhere. Random strangers tell you to “go back to your own country,” as though you were not born on American soil. Your family may call you “white-washed,” and you’ll feel ashamed. If this feeling hasn’t set in yet, you may still have time to enrich yourself within your parents’ culture, and I hope you do so. If you’re a younger Asian American and you’re reading this, I want you to know that trying to be a part of something that you are not—no matter how badly you want it—will not work. While you may want to be more white, you never will be, but your Asian family will always love you, as long as you embrace your roots. Respect where you came from, and it will make your life infinitely better.

Cover Image Credit: Matthew Nguyen

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Black History Month Spotlight: Remembering Ida B. Wells

Before Rosa Parks, there was Ida. B Wells

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When considering American history and the many Americans we have labeled as heroes, our minds often rush to the names we have read about in textbooks since childhood. Normally when asked about American heroes, automatically we think about George Washington, Martin Luther King Jr., John F Kennedy, Henry Ford, and so on.

All of these icons have left a prominent impact on our country in different ways. I admire the work all of these figures have done for America, however, my hero is one that I can connect with on a more personal level. She is not a name mentioned in most elementary textbooks. She is a hidden figure with an inspiring story, a pioneer for not only women but also women of color. Her name is Ida B. Wells.

Ida B. Wells was an esteemed journalist, researcher, and activist in the late 19th century. Born into slavery, her life was not destined for greatness. However, after the Civil War ended, Ida and her family were declared free by the Emancipation Proclamation. But, living in the south during this time was not easy.

Facing racial prejudice and discriminatory practices at every corner of her life, Wells took it upon herself to expose what was really happening in the south during this time. Being a former educator, she took to writing and investigative reporting, displaying the horrors of the frequent lynching and mob violence that took place.

I consider Ida B. Wells a hero of mine because her work shed light on real issues that were happening and uncovered the hard truth. As a budding journalist, I have so much respect for Wells and her courage and strength. Ida refused to leave people in the dark because keeping people from hard-hitting news is bad journalism.

While learning about her in my journalism class last semester, my professor told us Frederick Douglas claimed that if it wasn't for her research, he wouldn't have believed the stigma around white men raping black women. According to The Guardian, "she destroyed the mainstream media's narratives that suggested lynching victims were criminals," and in 1894, the New York Times was very critical of Wells because she broke down stereotypical barriers and influenced the thoughts of many Americans.

What we think about the world today is often skewed by media representation. It is up to us to determine if the information we are receiving is true and accurate. I look up to Ida B. Wells because she asked herself about the possible misconceptions that were happening around her, and sought to fix it. She was a skeptic and refused to give into societal norms.

She taught me that just because I am a woman, and a woman of color does not mean that I have to let society make the rules for me. I have learned that journalism is a sacred mission to make society better. Ida B. Wells not only made society better but more aware and conscious of the media they consume. She is a hero, pioneer, and social icon. For young journalists everywhere, she is a name to remember.

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