We make connections in our minds between the subconscious impressions of the world we live in. Often, we aren’t even aware that we’ve made those connections. From what I have been reading about and learning, it seems to me that this (among other things, of course) contributes to implicit biases. Other things I have been reading and learning about is human impulses; those that are sometimes beyond our control or even our knowledge. Things like “fight or flight” – those concepts and ideas are fascinating to me. How is it that conscious minds with the ability to cogitate about all the things, can be so blind to what’s going on in our very bodies?
Yes; I am weird like this. But most of you already know that.
One of things I try to remember is that in a way, human beings are “higher” animals. We share a lot characteristics with the “lower” animals. Like that “fight or flight” instinct. Whether we want to think about it, whether we like it, whether it even makes sense to us … we do share some very basic instinctual and animalistic traits with the other animals.
Two circumstances lit a bulb in my head recently.
A few years ago, my niece was physically afraid of talking to me, hugging me, even being in the same room with me. I couldn’t make head or tail of it back then. I extrapolated all kinds of notions as to why that was. Even that she could sense how ridiculously incompetent I was with kids. Or maybe that I had some deep-seated evil that only young children could sense. Oh; it got weird. I agonised for months over the fact that a 3-year-old wouldn’t hug me. I questioned everything; my ability to mother for one, my understanding of the world I live in for another, my choices, my reality … everything. I don’t even know if I ever came to a conclusion either. Until now …
The other circumstance was with dogs. If you’re offended by being compared to dogs, you can stop reading now. It gets … worse.
Two dogs on my street would often be left to run around unsupervised and unrestrained. They would run around in everybody’s yard doing whatever they wanted. Poop, play, dig … just another reminder how much I despise dogs. They would back me into my garage and bark and snarl no matter what I did. I absolutely HATED those damn dogs. So much so I filled out a complaint against their owners because I felt threatened and since discharging firearms here is illegal, I figured it was a better option than just plain shooting them. (I am only half kidding about shooting them; I thought about it but only for a second.) Then a neighbour said to me, “I wonder if it’s cos you’re black?” My husband recoiled in horror, but I was stunned. Of COURSE! They have never seen anyone LIKE me before and they have no way of knowing whether I am friend or foe. Add in my hostility and we get aggressive behaviour like cornering me in my garage, barking and snarling.
It’s logical when I think of it now. When we are faced with something new, something “other”, we automatically go into “fight or flight” mode because we have no developed skills to help us figure out who is friend or foe. The enterprising among us develop stories and ideas about the “others” in our midst and spread them subliminally and overtly. Whispering in our ears in several ways that this particular “other” is dangerous, bad, to be reviled. We never refute it, we never question it, we pass it down generation through generation it gets so entrenched that it’s part of our reality. We believe it like we believe our name. And so we strike out against that “other” in whatever way is acceptable and legal because it’s bad, it’s evil, and it will tarnish us.
Bias isn’t to be reviled. It is to be pitied because at its root, it is a kind of ignorance. And because it is such much a part of our foundational beliefs that it will take a whole lot more than yelling or constant and unrelenting dissemination of truths to make a change. Not that we should stop yelling and delivering constant and relentless information. Just that it will take at least as many years to resolve, as it took to entrench it in the first place. I wish that weren’t true, and maybe it isn’t; I hope against hope that is isn’t while I tell myself that it is. Just so I won’t be disappointed. It’s a sad thing to realise. Depressing. Yet hopeful. At some point, humanity might learn that we are all the same; no matter what we look like on the outside.