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What's the difference?

February 3, 2019

This may very well cause controversy, but I am okay with that.  There is a greater good at stake and hopefully it will leave you with a greater understanding of a topic that we do not discuss enough.  This is only meant to be a healthy discussion about a little word that has made a huge difference in people's lives throughout the history of mankind. A word that even shapes the very history we study in school.  A word that is certainly at work in today's society and thus shaping many things that impact the future.

 

The word is bias:

prejudice in favor of or against one thing, person, or group compared with another, usually in a way considered to be unfair. 

synonyms:prejudice, partiality, partisanship, favoritism, unfairness, 

one-sidedness 

 

I want to challenge you to think about what it means to be bias(ed). How you have been bias(ed) with others. How others have been bias(ed) with you... and the impact that bias has on those who are on the unfavorable side of bias(ed) decisions. 

 

The above definition we will more formally call conscious (explicit) bias because there is something that also comes into play called unconscious (implicit) bias... social stereotypes about certain groups of people that individuals form outside of their conscious awareness, according to a 2017 article on TalentCulture.com.  The website goes on to state that unconscious bias happens outside of our control. It occurs automatically and is triggered by our brain making a quick judgment.  So does this mean that unconscious bias is forgivable because it is something that we cannot control?

 

This is surely a very complex topic that I will not be able to fully examine in this post... but I want to at least strike up a conversation, spark some thoughts and shed some light on this important and meaningful subject.   

 

Before reading any further. Stop and think about the questions presented above... the added information about unconscious bias... which then leads us to another question and the title of this post... "what's the difference"... what's the difference between conscious and unconscious bias... when at the end of the day the result of biased decisions, conscious or not, will likely be the same.  

 

(Seriously... take a moment to reflect)

 

Ok... now that you have had your time to think... I hope you are ready to be honest with yourself and others.  I will certainly be honest in my opinions on this subject and will draw upon personal experiences, observations and conversations as I share further. 

 

I want to utilize the NFL and the circumstances surrounding NFC Championship game as a way of articulating some thoughts on bias.  

As a former employee of the New Orleans Saints, these talks about what happens when the odds are against you has stirred up some thoughts that I never thought I would discuss publicly.  While I have had a number of private conversations about my experiences working for the Saints organization... I honestly never felt moved to express my thoughts in a public forum...  until now.  As a teacher, I feel this is a teachable moment that we can learn from. 

 

We all know what occurred during the NFC Championship game which is basically a case of bias. Whether conscious or unconscious... the outcome of the "non call" is what has left Saints fans and many NFL fans feeling some kind of way about what occurred... and rightfully so.   No one can really dispute if there was bias involved in a game with four referees from Southern California officiating but what we can debate is if that bias was conscious or unconscious.  If you are a true Saints fan you will say it was conscious without a second thought.... Others  may argue that the bias was unconscious.  There are levels to this... and the bias, be it conscious or unconscious, seemingly began before the game itself.  Diving deeper we can speculate whether bias was at work on the part of the NFL with the selection of officials for this particular game.  Was it coincidental that four officials had ties to Southern California... one of which was a former Rams player.  Regardless of if it was conscious or unconscious bias... we can agree that the odds were more favorable towards the Rams... and therefore the Rams won.  Do we really care if it was conscious or unconscious bias? If you are Saints fan... no because the bias was not favorable towards your team. If you are a Rams fan... no because the bias was favorable towards your team. 

 

That is the crazy thing about bias... someone will be on the short end of the stick no matter if it was a conscious act or an unconscious act. 

 

That being said, I cannot help but examine what happened that dreaded day in Saints country to what happens everyday to people based on race and gender in particular... not to mention other factors as well. 

 

I think I am just amazed how passionate people are about bias in this situation. In addition to evaluating the bias in the case of what occurred in the case of that game... I also evaluated bias in other scenarios as well:

 

NFL Bias: The Non-Call

NFL Bias: Kaepernick

News Bias

Workplace Bias

Sport Fan Bias

Everyday Bias

 

Everything and everyone is subject to bias, so the points I will make from here on out are just examples to draw a comparison to something that has recently captivated a lot of people and therefore serves as an opportunity to challenge people to think about bias beyond just what occurred during that game.

 

Let's take another pause to reflect... before we continue. Trust me I have taken several pauses while writing this.... so I want to suggest doing the same as you read this. 

 

(Insert pause here)... take your time.... 

 

 

 

Here we go again... Bias is bias? What's the difference?

 

I cannot help but to wonder if the biases I and many others experience each and everyday is any different from the bias that occurred on that field.

 

Whether a referee on the field, a Senior Vice President, a President, or any other position that has the ability to control the outcome of a game or a career path... there is bias at work.  When there is no diversity in who makes decisions that can impact the outcome of a game or the ability of others to reach certain levels of success.   

 

I challenge you to think about other situations in which there is bias... also known as... prejudice, partiality, partisanship, favoritism, unfairness, one-sidedness. I have challenged myself to not be biased as I write this post.. but to someone... this will be biased but I cannot let that stop me from expressing myself. 

 

What's the difference between what happened that day during a game with Super Bowl implications... and what happens in an office when there is professional implications.  Whether a team or an individual when you have worked hard and have a proven track record, it is hard to just make peace with a biased decision that is not in your favor especially when another team or person seems to benefit simply because those in a position of authority favored the other team or other individuals because of bias.  You do not have to read between the lines because I can directly relate what happened on that field to what has happened to me on more than one occasion in a professional setting, including with the New Orleans Saints.

 

I think many can relate to this when put in this context. Whether it be based on race, gender, nationality, sexuality, religion or any other factor. There are many who can relate to being on the short end of the stick when it comes to bias in the workplace.  

 

I am bringing this up now because there is a focus on bias based on the circumstance surrounding the non-call... and therefore I feel if we are going to go there... then let's go there.  Whether you are on the favorable side of bias... or the unfavorable side.... whether it is conscious or unconscious... does it make it right?  What's the difference? Non-calls happen.... everyday... but I do not need to tell you that, do I?  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

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