On a bike ride over the weekend, we came across this poster.
At first glance, without a proper look, it’s a feel-good gesture: our health care workers are not only working hard for all of us, but are taking risks every day as they do so.
But look closer.
What do you see?
Who do you see?
And who is missing?
White is still the “norm”
If you need some help – please notice that these front line workers are all white-skinned.
There isn’t a brown or black skinned image on this poster.
And this poster is in Toronto – where over 50% of the population are visible minorities!
Is it intentional? I doubt it. But that’s the nature of unconscious bias.
What are the implications of this “oversight”.
- It reinforces a message about who front line workers are
- It disregards the many, many front line workers who are not white-skinned – it makes them invisible
- In so doing, it ascribes value to front line workers who are white-skinned, and consequently devalues front line workers who are NOT white-skinned
- It reminds us to say thank you to these front line workers – workers who are white-skinned – which makes it easy(easier) to overlook front line workers who are not white-skinned
- Ultimately, this type of poster and the messaging it reinforces leads to discrimination, harassment, violence – and the lack of speaking up/standing up when we see it
Much exclusion and discrimination are unconscious.
Like this poster.
But the impact is painful, regardless to those we miss.
And, we all lose in the long run.