My Implicit, Liberal Bias
Lest you get the idea I’m a good person based on my last post, I should probably tell you that when I’m done with someone, for whatever the reason, they treat a friend or family member poorly or they are can’t come to terms with their racism, I’m done with a proclamation of doneness that’s punctuated with liberal use of the F word. I should work on this, or people should work on not being so fucking disappointing.
Prior to my F bomb laden proclamation of done-ness, I was politely introducing the concept of implicit bias. You may know that implicit bias is the “unconscious attribution of particular qualities to a member of a certain social group. These biases or stereotypes are shaped by experience and based on learned associations between particular qualities and social categories, including race and/or gender.” Everyone has an implicit bias(es) – blind spots. The good news is that you can become aware of what your biases are and work and, once aware, work to overcome them. I mean – assuming you’re willing. Harvard University has several online quizzes that you can take to become aware of your implicit bias(es).
Or maybe – you’re a self-aware individual, in which case you may come to the realization all on your own what your implicit biases are/were. Like I did.
Late May 2019, Andrea was traveling to Virginia for work. I was back home and had just written a hefty check to the contractor who was wrapping up the stamped concrete path from our front door to the driveway, and a second stamped concrete path to the gate to the back yard.
Andrea called, “My boss just asked me if we’d consider moving to Virginia.”
I scoffed, “Ha – yeah. Just handed Frankie a check for the front walk – we’re not going anywhere.”
“I told her not Lynchburg – "
“Yeah, definitely.” I replied.
“-but turns out that’s what she had in mind.” Andrea continued.
“What?” I laughed.
The other end of the line was silent.
“Andrea – no. Let’s talk about this when you get home.” I said, thinking that once she saw how great the path looked, she might come to her senses.
Andrea came home and we talked about it and talked about it and talked about it. I agreed to visit the area around 4th of July weekend. I’d been to Virginia before – back in 1994. The Army sent me to Ft. Eustis, Virginia, in Newport News to take a mandatory 4-week class I never used. Maybe it’s apt that soldiers refer to Eustis as “useless”? Sorry taxpayers, it wasn’t my idea. I didn’t see a whole lot of the area but did break out of the base to go to Colonial Williamsburg and to Busch Gardens. My other experience with the south was the nearly 4 years I spent on/near Ft. Rucker, Alabama. And this was the basis of all my beliefs of the south – which were primarily that the south was chock full of racist, sexist, homophobic rednecks. Oh. Hey, implicit bias! Pull up a chair and make yourself at home.
So it was through the lens of implicit bias that I thought about moving my non-racist, gender equality, same sex married ass to Virginia. Yeah – no thanks. Only, I wasn’t seeing evidence of that during the trip. Which wasn’t enough to spare me from a middle of the night, full blown panic attack that I texted my friend Anne about. I think Anne thought this was a good sign – that we weren’t going to move. Only I’ve never let fear stop me before.
I began to spy on the Lynchburg, VA area thanks to social media. And I really didn’t see evidence to support my implicit, liberal bias. Huh. In August, Andrea officially interviewed for the position and in September, she was offered the job. We didn’t have to move until “March or April” and we moved in March, just prior to the COVID shit hitting the fan in Massachusetts. When I think about my worries associated with moving to a new state, a worldwide pandemic and civil unrest never crossed my mind. And yet, here I am, in the south during both of these historic events and I’m watching my new, neighboring communities stand up for what is right. Protesting – because, goddammit, black lives do matter. I’m proud and awestruck. Sure – there are the rednecks I feared posting the dumbest shit ever. But you know what? Ignorant people don’t just live in the south – they are posting loud and clear from places like…. New Mexico, for example, showing me who they are. And this time, I’m believing them.
In 2016, a woman by the name of Luvvie Ajayi wrote a book called, “I’m Judging You: The Do Better Manual.” I listened to it and probably should listen to it again as I continue to listen and learn about how I can be a better person to people of all races. A lot of people are trying to listen and learn – books like, “White Fragility: Why It’s so Hard to For White People to Talk About Racism” and “How to be an Antiracist” are sold out at both Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Maybe you can find them at one of these Black owned bookstores though: https://lithub.com/you-can-order-today-from-these-black-owned-independent-bookstores/
On June 2nd, Luvvie posted a blog entry titled, “Maybe It’s Time to Lose Your Trash Friends”. Luvvie was in a direct message conversation, on Instagram, with somebody who wanted to know how they could educate their white friends and let them see that racism exists. Luvvie’s answer was:
“THUNDER FIRE THOSE FRIENDS. Thunder, let it fire them. Because in 2020, how do you still need to convince somebody that racism is a thing? Whoever is not convinced is willfully ignorant and, frankly, stupid. Dumb as fuck, and that is not the person you want to be friends with. In this process of anti-racism, let us be clear that you’re going to lose friends. White folks, some of you too. Actually, especially you. If you’re doing it right, you’re going to lose some friends. Why? Because I can’t trust you to be my friend, to stand in this world in the gap for me, when you deny my lived experience.”
On Friday, I had a conversation with someone in an attempt to sort out the, “What the fuck?!” of the week. This person pointed out that there are those who choose to engage in self-reflection. And others, who quite simply, don’t. These people are uncomfortable with self-reflection. I’m reminded of a quote by Brene Brown from her book, “Rising Strong: How the Ability to Reset Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead”:
“I want to be in the arena. I want to be brave with my life. And when we make the choice to dare greatly, we sign up to get our asses kicked. We can choose courage or we can choose comfort, but we can’t have both. Not at the same time. Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.”