On the bias

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I made some small adjustments to my studio this week, and it reminded me how much even minor changes to your space can affect your energy and mood.

The new arrangement feels more open and calm, and it makes it easy for me to see people outside my window as I’m working on these new drawings.

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I enjoy all of the “regulars,” like the group of 3-year-olds who are escorted from a neighboring daycare to the park every morning, and the two girls from our local high school who run sprints together over and over in the afternoon.

My favorites are currently these two guys who look like serious heavy metal dudes: long hair, clothes all black, always wearing sunglasses. Beards.

They walk slowly up the hill to our mini park to sit in the sun a while and…hold hands. Then they walk slowly down the hill again.

That was definitely not what I expected when I first saw them heading up there.

Having people surprise me that way can be kind of like having new surroundings. It makes me see everything fresh for a while.

That is something I am always striving for in my work. It is so easy for your vision to get far too comfortable with seeing the same thing over and over. And to get biased.

I have also been catching up on This American Life, so I was only just listening to their recent show Cops See It Differently, which is in two parts.

The second part touches on bias quite a bit, and I think does an excellent job of discussing how bias is something we live with all the time, with regard to almost everything. Even when we’re trying not to be biased.

And how when we’re trying very hard not to be biased, sometimes it only serves to make it harder to acknowledge.

The show includes this moving and much-needed speech, made to cops, from FBI director James Comey:

I am descended from Irish immigrants. A century ago, the Irish knew well how American society and law enforcement viewed them– as drunks, ruffians, and criminals. The Irish had some tough times, but little compares to the experience on our soil of black Americans.

That experience should be part of every American’s consciousness. And we, especially those of us who enjoy the privilege that comes with being the majority, must confront the biases that are an inescapable part of the human condition. We must speak the truth about our shortcomings as law enforcement and fight to get better. We simply must speak to each other honestly about all these hard truths.

Thankfully I do not have to be a police officer, struggling with the ways my inherent racial bias affects my job and potentially people’s lives.

Nor do I have to be a man with dark skin, and live with the fact that most people, whether they mean to or not, consider me dangerous.

But we all deal with bias, and being biased, all the time. From my window, I get to choose what to make of what I see.

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It is up to me to take on the responsibility of keeping my vision as clear as I can. It is also up to me to acknowledge that I will never be free of bias, not entirely.

So here’s to seeing things with fresh eyes this week! Or at least trying to.

 

 

 

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