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EDITOR'S DESK: 'Implicit bias'? Why stop there?

       By Kenyon Jordan

       I learned a new term recently: "implicit bias."
       It essentially means that those of us who believe we are tolerant of diverse people and behaviors are in fact harboring subconsciously discriminatory thoughts.
       And, as you might imagine, there are experts in these matters who are glad to straighten us out, guiding us out of our guilt and down the path of social justice.
       I got introduced to implicit bias while attending a recent meeting of the informal Avenue Task Force, which seeks community-spirited ways to address

crime along the Colorado/Manitou Avenue corridor. Manitou Police Chief Joe Rebeiro brought up the term during a task-force discussion on panhandling. His contention was that even if people don't want to admit it, they are secretly turned off by people seeking handouts. And, though he didn't expand further, I did an Internet search later, which instructed me that all too many of us have similarly mean-spirited attitudes - unknown to ourselves - toward just about every group that's not like us.
       This inspired a few personal musings. One was that Rebeiro is the perfect chief for a town like Manitou, with its left-leaning politics, legalized marijuana and fruitcake tosses. And now he can be the chief of the town's thought police.
       Another musing was that it's interesting how new, edgy terms like implicit bias keep popping up, invariably meant to put everyday people on the defensive while leaving no room for argument. “Micro-agression” is another, in which any number of words/phrases can be deemed offensive by some, although their indignation clearly does not extend to the consequent loss of freedom of speech. To such people, I prefer the use of macro-aggression: I DON'T LIKE THAT, AND I DON'T LIKE YOU.
       A third musing I had on implicit bias was this: How convenient. We are racists, anti-women, homeless-haters and God knows what else, but luckily for us there are people more clever and caring who can see our shortcomings - although happily they don't hold it against us because it's really not our fault that we're too dumb to see it for ourselves.
       The final thought I had was just being ticked off.
       Not just because of my reactions described above. No, this goes a little deeper. What frosts me the most is not getting credit for being fully aware of, and yes, content with, my biases.
       For instance, race. If I see Ben Carson on TV, I anticipate likeability and common sense. If I see Black Lives Matter people chanting about killing police, I wonder why they're not being arrested for inciting a riot.
       Women? I love my wife and doing stuff with her, so my bias is joy. My mom was a nurse in World War II, serving near the front lines, went back to school and became a leader in Visiting Nurses. I loved and admired her, but wished she'd been home more. By the way, that's not bias, that's regret. Hillary Clinton? I hope she dreams about Benghazi.
       People in Islamic robes? I used to say whatever. Not so much anymore. Not when, world-wide, over and over, those robes have concealed bombs or guns, causing hideous pain to innocents. Sorry, you Muslims who insist it's the “religion of peace.” You've got a lot of work to do.
       Panhandlers? If I see a family dressed in rags with starving children crying, you bet I'm going to call for assistance. (Although when's the last time you viewed a scene like that?) But if I run across a healthy-looking guy with a new backpack, sneakers, cellphone and a sign requesting handouts, well… see if you can guess my reaction.
       The point is, we make biased decisions all day long. I like this store. I don't like that one. I'm going to write this article before another. I like this street, but not that house. I like his car. I don't like yours. Whatever. If I think you need to know why on any of these, I'll tell you. If you're curious, feel free to ask and I'll give you my opinion in as kindly a way as possible. It's called honesty.
       So I say it's time for a backlash, to turn the tables on the know-it-alls who clearly want to cow the rest of us into silence. Because when you get down to it, they themselves have an implicit bias… against anyone who doesn't see the world the way they do.
       Here's an imaginary back-and-forth with one of them. Stronger military? I think I saw a scowl there! Christian values? Now your expression is definitely contorted. What do you think about Donald Trump? Ooo, what if your face got stuck in that position?
       But I'm not here just to find fault. For all you implicit-bias asserters: I'd be more than happy to assist you, to make you aware of those blind spots of yours and to fix them up nice and proper. Would I ever.

(Posted 12/18/15; Opinion: Editor's Desk)

       Kenyon Jordan is the editor of the Westside Pioneer.


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