Whenever someone [who looks different than me] walks into a room I [fill in the blank].
Whenever I put together an invite list I [fill in the blank].
Whenever we have a server of a different nationality we [fill in the blank].
It all begins with bias.
In my opinion, “bias” is not a bad word. The actual definition, however: prejudice in favor of or against one thing, person, or group compared with another, usually in a way considered to be unfair.
Sure, that doesn’t sound good. But I will argue that the positive and negative aspects of bias are how they play out in our behaviors. Those behaviors are the result of filters applied to our biases since birth. As such they are often instinctual, hence the phrase “snap judgment.”
Now imagine that bias did not exist. We’re born free of instincts that force us to make those snap judgments. The replacement: curiosity. Those “whenever” statements take on a different meaning now:
Whenever someone [who looks different than me] walks into a room I want to know more about them.
Whenever I put together an invite list I just want to invite everyone I know.
Whenever we have a server of a different nationality we always want to know where they come from.
How would no bias change your life? Our lives? The world? It’s almost incomprehensible, but it’s not impossible. Someone once said that we are all born pure. Those “filters” placed on us by family, friends, teachers, and communities where we grew up help shape our biases. Some of these filters may be permanent and some are temporary. We have to put in the effort to understand which filters we can replace and which we can adjust.
This is no easy task particularly when our brain interprets uncertainty as pain. Uncertainty is when we see someone who doesn’t look like us. The brain feels pain and so it makes up a story to ease that pain. That story is what drives our unconscious biases. We have to change uncertainty into curiosity and teach ourselves to not make up stories but to ask questions and get the real story.
This all starts with each one of us. If we can value curiosity over uncertainty, we just might start to change the world.