Jennifer Harrison is Associate Professor of Social Sciences at Warren County Community College
What if your students introduced you to you at the start of each semester? Based on your appearance, what do you think they would say? Would you be willing to do this activity?
This activity, which I call “Inferring The Instructor”, has been used for a number semesters to introduce myself and my students to this activity. It’s a great way for sociologists to start a discussion about observational research and how limited it might be to conduct a study.
Recently, I used this activity to open the discussion about unconscious bias at conferences. Although it is nerve-racking, it does demonstrate how easy assumptions can be made at first glance. Most of the time, assumptions based on appearance are unconscious and harmless. They can, however, be dangerous and influence society’s view of a group. These stereotypes can lead discrimination and prejudice.
Recognize Underlying Attitudes
Unconscious or implicit biases are the associations we hold that, even though they are not conscious, can have a significant impact on our attitudes and behaviors. No matter how fair-minded or objective we may be, everyone has unconscious bias. This means that we automatically react to others in positive and negative ways. These associations are hard to overcome, no matter how wrong they may be. They are deeply embedded in our thinking and emotions. Recognizing that these beliefs are part of our DNA is the first step in overcoming them.
We are often ethnocentric and believe that our way is the best. What if everyone practiced cultural relativity instead? Understanding that cultural traditions are important for us, and that other cultures have their own traditions is key to understanding cultural relativity. Accepting that not everyone will like our way is the first step in culturally being relative. Nietzsche said, “You have the right to your way.” I have my way. I have my way.
Combat Stereotypes Actively
No matter how “woke” or fair-minded we may think we are, all of us have unconscious bias. These biases can be used to oppress minorities. To make these systems more sustainable, we must be open to criticism. To combat stereotypes, we must overcome unconscious biases and create an environment that encourages and supports diversity and cultural differences.
Let’s get together, let’s examine our biases, reject ethnocentrism, and practice cultural relativity in order to be more understanding and accepting.
Join us April 7th for Make it Matter: Igniting Sparks in Your Social Sciences Students for more best practices and faulty tested tips for teaching in the current atmosphere.