It’s not new concepts that prejudice (pre-judging) is learned (sometimes taught) and that unconscious bias is insidious. Here is a stellar example of both (and the impact on my 3 year old) that made me particularly furious.
Recently I was watching an episode of My Little Pony with my daughter. It’s about friendship and there is usually a decent message. But one episode caught my attention.
The ponies were trying to make friends with the yaks (yes, actual yaks, the animal). The yaks were from Yakistan. Red flag #1. Where in the world do countries end with “stan” and who lives there?
But wait, there’s more: The yaks were very hard to please and they were dangerous – when they got mad they went on a rampage and ruined everything in their immediate surroundings. BIG red flag #2. So yaks, from Yakistan are not reasonable, are dangerous and are not particularly nice.
Shortly thereafter my daughter was playing with some animal stickers. One of them was a yak. She promptly told me yaks were yucky.
And there you have it. It’s not unreasonable to assume that countries ending in “stan” may also be on her radar as yucky somewhere in the corners of her 3 year old mind only to surface later when she learns about geography.
So we had a talk about how you can’t judge people (or yaks) until you meet them. But the thought was already there, and I had to mitigate it. And it came from a cartoon that my three year old watches. Thankfully, she doesn’t watch alone!
We swim in the soup of unconscious bias every day.
When we acknowledge it, and examine what we are seeing, reading, hearing, we can at least practice catching it and mitigating the effects (i.e. discrimination, exclusion, etc) instead of passively taking it in and having it impact our thoughts and actions unconsciously.
Copyright 2015 Annemarie Shrouder
Speaker, Author and Facilitator on issues of Diversity & Inclusion
Radio Show Host – Creating Families