Is “Implicit Bias” Just Another Excuse?

 

anthemIs ‘implicit bias’  REALLY present ‘ONLY’at a subconscious level or is it a cop-out…another excuse? Here is one opinion, baked by experience and little scientific research, but just as plausible as the critical examination of theoretical frameworks.  We speak of everyday biases, the not -so obvious or covert displays of prejudice, and we lend excuses to them by offering an escape to those who demonstrate an alignment with the politically incorrect ‘caricature’-ish attitudes regarding individuals who represent racial, ethnic, religious….diversity.

Implicit bias demonstrates stereotypic thinking, “immaculate perceptions”, derived from the lack of empathic awareness, cultural sensitivity, the absence of knowledge which correlates with a certain level of open-mindedness, critical reasoning and logical thought. It may feel comfortable, normal, regular, and even realistic to see others through these narrow, ethnocentric cultural lenses. It may feel right and evidence-based.

In reality, it can derive from fear and self-loathing; an insecurity or historical guilt which manifests as legitimate reasons to devalue  disrespect and deny access to resources, opportunities and rights to thrive in an ‘equal’ society. Thus, it makes it excusable, less embarrassing, and less racist to minimize its impact on the way we see the world or the way we see ourselves in relation to others in the world. It just feeds the ego, and we accept that.

It is evidence that we are afraid to ‘let the chips fall where they may”. That feels too random, the work is harder and it is more challenging. We don’t know whether we could cut it if the playing fields were made level. That is just fear and excuses to not work our hardest-to the best of our ability. Thus, we convince ourselves and others that we are better, more superior, deserving, privileged and entitled to win at all costs.

As a survivor of a marriage wrought with ‘intimate partner’ violence, psychological and physical abuses, I have come to believe that when someone constantly degrades you and makes you feel less confident about who you are-your value, your worth- it is because of the way that person feels about him or herself.  If I work feverishly to convince you that I am better, stronger, faster… than you, it is because I need to convince myself that I am at least equal to you and I desperately need recognition of my own value. It is not about you, but it’s about my insecurities, unmet needs, and any personal guilt is masked by overt aggression and cruelty.

Some will hear these put-downs and begin to believe and internalize the words, despite the inner voices which say otherwise. Eventually, we must face ourselves honestly AND others equally as honest, yet, some people never confront their demons. Better to arrive at that point out of desire to evolve and develop empathy than have it thrust upon us unprepared. When that happens, people get hurt.

We see this all too often with police-involved shootings. Implicit bias causes unintended, avoidable harm. When someone does get hurt, families don’t want to hear and won’t accept your excuses. The harm will be perceived avoidable-your fault, your ignorance, and no matter how well defended, deep inside, you know the truth.  It is your fault. Accept it, and learn from it, as a teachable moment. with the understanding that you must learn a new way to think before you can master a new way to be.

In the matter of the elephant in the room, called racism, one would think that we have truly evolved and developed the strength, sense of humanity, fairness and the capacity to engage in a collective and respectful conversation in recognition of that divisive elephant. Not just empty talk, but talk followed by action. Rather, we avoid the inevitable, only to result in volatile, highly charged confrontations with one another, civil unrest and a revolution. The truth hurts, but in the presence of truth, directions can become clear, paths may converge as we all move peacefully, and respectfully in the same direction-forward.

Face the truths-our nation’s truths, our personal truths, and with clear consciences, we may engage in productive conversations framed by a reciprocal dialogue, active listening skills and a desire to broaden our cultural lens. We can thus begin to forge a new path into a brighter future in a democracy shaped by the vision of a collaborative called “We, The People”… united in mission… “in order to form a more perfect union….”!

No more excuses, implicit bias or immaculate perceptions. No more US vs. THEM! We cannot control the world. We can only control ourselves. So, control yourself! We cannot color the world. The world is naturally populated with a beautiful spectrum of hues, shades and colors, and people, too. We MUST appreciate and find awe in their beauty. We MUST not divide and conquer. We MUST conquer our fears…  to live and thrive in a diverse society. Together we stand or divided we fall! Enough falling, folks. We are heading towards global destruction. Name-calling, cultural, religious and gender insensitivity, represent classic ignorance. Implicit bias and blind prejudice should not characterize the way we create positive change!

Implicit, my as..! We have no more excuses in an information-driven society! The next generation of leaders will not respect their elders-us- until we show evidence of growth, strength and a sincere belief in our individual and collective capacity to pursue success by  our individual merits, on our honor, without rigging the system. They will know, even if they never admit it out loud, that we cheated our way to the top. We spread implicit bias around and weren’t brave enough to live up to the U.S. Constitution,  in order to live the American Dream. Wake up, everybody! You must learn a new way to think before you can master a new way to be!

Opiods & Other Addictions: A ‘Hood Health Emergency For Too Long

What I am about to say, perhaps no one wants to hear or read, as it were. But, I would be perpetuating a fraud, to myself and to those communities, groups and individuals who not only want to say, but need to hear someone else say these words. So, this goes out to the strong-minded, self-assured and empathic souls who don’t mind and aren’t threatened by hearing someone speak their truths-share their realities and speak their mind. To further preface this conversation, the words expressed here do not in any way represent the words of a divisive, angry, prejudiced or a hypocrite’s cry. This is merely an example of what it means to ‘broaden one’s cultural lens, and not reject an experience, view or belief of others who may not relate to life as it is lived by another.

When the black and hispanic communities were under siege by the heroin and crack cocaine epidemic, the world and the nation sat back and either let it happen or criminalized the addictive behaviors due to people’s need, far beyond desire, for a ‘fix’ or a ‘hit’ of these drugs. Lots of otherwise good and honest people were ‘jones-ing’ for a psychological and physiological relief, and the country just blamed the victim. Oddly enough, they weren’t responsible for the influx or transport of these drugs into their ‘hoods. But bore the brunt of blame for their conditions as though they were the reason for the country’s ills. We mustn’t forget that illegal substances were strategically placed in their communities, where they lived and raised families.

People went to jail-black people, brown people-men, women and even children at school. Everyone either went to juvenile detention, jail and/or prison. What did anyone care about the children left behind, broken homes or the children who were suffering because of a parent’s drug use? They were taken away from parents, who were considered unfit or criminals and as a result, innocent kids entered the child welfare system-and into another type of imprisonment themselves. Where does the hope lie? Where is the help or disease model or social policy change? Compassion, empathy, humanity? National health emergency? NIMBY!!![not in my backyard]
Over the past 15 years, communities across our nation have been devastated by increasing prescription and illicit opioid abuse, addiction, and overdose. In 2016, over 11 million Americans misused prescription opioids, nearly 1 million used heroin, and 2.1 million had an opioid use disorder due to prescription opioids or heroin. Since 2013, the introduction of illegally produced fentanyl has made the problem worse.
For prescription drugs, the availability was ever plentiful. All one needed to do was be white and visit a favorite medical doctor. Occasionally, hospitalizations precipitated this addition. It began as physiological in nature. Genuine pain-bodily. But does that mean that people in the poorer communities were not in pain too? A different type of pain that didn’t require an injury or surgery, but that which one could only wish would cease to bother their minds. Their heads were hurting, from the inside. Souls were in turmoil. Dreams were deferred and destroyed. Hope was all but gone, withering away due to life as a minority in a system that had no respect, regard or felt any remorse for them or their children. The system worked for them, and that was all that really mattered. Everyone knew it;everyone felt it;everyone saw it. Their brains were experiencing pains of a systemic sort.
That is not to say that in suburbia, there was nobody experiencing psychological pain. The pains felt were not economical to the extent that basic life needs were continuously negotiated and prioritized on a level incomprehensible to most. Their pains were not brought on because of skin color or name. They were the pains of, what some would consider ‘excess’, privilege and extreme comforts.
Abuse, neglect, food insecurity, unemployment, ageism, misogyny, and others exist across the board. Coping skills are only as sophisticated as that which we are either taught directly, vicariously or by happenstance. The coping skills which manifest as central to our ability to engage resilience and continue along a defined journey into being.

As we seek solutions in the national fight against opiods and other illegal substances, SAMHSA’s[Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration] latest press release stated that the agency looks forward to continuing its role in helping American communities through evidence-based programs in prevention, treatment, and recovery services on behalf of all who have suffered the effects of opioid addiction.
HHS[Health and Human Services] is implementing five specific strategies that are guiding SAMHSA’s response. The comprehensive, evidenced-based Opioid Strategy aims to:

  • Improve access to treatment and recovery services to prevent the health, social, and economic consequences associated with opioid addiction and to enable individuals to achieve long-term recovery;
  • Target the availability and distribution of these drugs, and ensure the broad provision of overdose-reversing drugs to save lives;
  • Strengthen public health data reporting and collection to improve the timeliness and specificity of data and to inform a real-time public health response as the epidemic evolves;
  • Support cutting-edge research that advances our understanding of pain and addiction, leads to the development of new treatments, and identifies effective public health interventions to reduce opioid-related health harms; and
  • Advance the practice of pain management to enable access to high-quality, evidence-based pain care that reduces the burden of pain for individuals, families, and society while also reducing the inappropriate use of opioids and opioid-related harms.

We shall see how the nation, as a whole, recovers from the persistent menace  called ‘drug addiction’, a recognized crippling, life-destroying, family disruptive, community compromising temporary ‘cure’ for unmet needs, unspoken and unacknowledged anger felt by millions. People, we need a national intervention! Doctors, clinicians and behavioral health practitioners, step up to the plate! Use your voices, training and your skills to engage us in a collective catharsis. We need a breakthrough! The pain is killing people all around us! 911 emergencies are for psychological pain, too! If you are in pain, seek help!

“You’re Fired, Bitch! Go out and find something else to do!”

“YOU’RE FIRED, BITCH!”

This is not a game show or a reality show-this is life! This is the presidency, Mister President!

Those recently spoken words are so appropriate to what I’m feeling about our current President of these United States. How dare he disrespect the flag and the people for whom the flag signifies freedom, liberty and justice! Hasn’t anyone ever whispered into his ear that among the freedoms that our national flag represents is the freedom of expression, beliefs and the freedom to be committed to our beliefs, as individuals and as a collective-a nation?

As if a football player, professional athletes aren’t included in the context of freedoms! Does he believe that athletes are truly ‘dumb jocks’? Since college seems to reign as the prerequisite requirement before consideration of becoming a professional sports player, one should venture to guess that each player possesses some moderate level of intelligence. Along with intelligence, shouldn’t we safely assume that everyone has individual thoughts and beliefs, possibly different from the masses? As much as we are unique as humans, we are also similar, but we don’t have to conform, especially to nonsense. Not even when the nonsense is uttered froPresident

Are all athletes, simply because they are paid to play a sport that millions of Americans and people outside of America find pleasurable, entertaining, or exciting, paid to also keep their thoughts to themselves and their mouths shut? If there were a deeply felt cause that I support, because I exist within a ‘team’ environment, and we get paid to be on that team, is there a clause built into my contract which holds me to abstain from community activism? Why should we ask any player to go against his or her values to satisfy anyone else, let alone a President who clearly aligns with ‘Nationalism’, the ‘Alt-Right’,  and whatever moniker for racially-charged ideology is fashionable at the moment?

It is admirable that there are ‘dumb jocks’ who have a conscience, hold values, and support unjust, discriminatory practices, policies and the rhetoric ‘double-talk’ that we hear today. Black, white or mixed-descent, right is right and wrong is wrong! But, has there ever been anyone chided for calling a ‘spade a spade’…particularly when it was fashionable to do so?[*a distasteful double entendre]

I think that this ignorant phrase used by our President, expletives included, should be enough evidence of his loyalties and he should, himself, be fired by the American people, not just an owner of a sports team. The resounding response to his words, however, shows that he is not unanimously supported. There has been increased numbers of professional sports players, coaches included, who have risen or rather kneeled in protest/opposition to injustice, evidenced by spoken words or actions. Un-American is un-American, in today’s America!

Our newest president seems to be more comfortable responding to popular media and news more social than political, than he is with exercising diplomacy and acting as a vehicle for bringing us all together united as Americans. His job is to act as a strong voice elected by the people to act in our best interest,…Black, White, Protestant, Catholic, LGBTQ or uncategorized. His job is not to polarize, antagonize, demonize or even sympathize. Nobody wants his sympathy, for his job is but to empathize, apologize and lead us into a more inclusively peace-filled and global future.

Obviously, Mr. Trump did not know what he was embarking upon as leader of the free world. So, I say, “You’re fired, Bitch! Go and find something else to do! Good ridding to bad rubbish! We deserve a better, more inclusive, tolerant and respectful leader …for the diversity that IS the U.S.!

 

What is it about swimming and Black people?

There is an historical myth/stereotype about swimming which says that ‘black people don’t swim’. Partially true that myth is, but do we know why? Most of us do not or have never endeavored to give it much consideration. So, it just lingered in the hearts and minds of many. This is my somewhat abbreviated explanation:

The truthful aspect of the stereotypic presumption stems from the notorious passages by which large groups of Africans were first shackled for future ‘slave’ labor and imported into North America and the nearby Caribbean islands. First, an internalized fear of water developed out of the trauma of capture and the horrific voyage across the seas. Upon these ships were very afraid humans, who were being taken somewhere strange, aboard a strange vessel, and traveling along a waterway far from home. Imagine that association! Along the voyage, many experienced or witnessed others being tortured, beaten, killed and thrown overboard, prey to the creatures of the deep and the elements. Many times, they weren’t dead before being thrown into the water. Imagine that imagery and the future negative association with water! So, swimming?? No way.

They then landed at places unknown, and in places where they were not only  viewed as sub-human, but treated as though un–human. As beautiful and as peaceful water is widely perceived, there was an already present fear, which was surely in contradiction with their desires to depart this land and return to their homelands where they were once free people. Water was the highway to freedom, yet they didn’t know how to get there, nor did they possess the wherewithal to get there.

Access to water, lakes, rivers, etc…, forbidden, except under watchful eye of whites, to whom they were ‘traded’ like livestock. There were no ‘inalienable’ rights, not even the right to live or breathe. All privileges were inaccessible, except for a few chosen persons. That is not to say that some of the enslaved blacks did not secretly learn to read, write, count, or swim, because some did. They risked their safety, life and limb to do any of these things. Access denied. As we progress into a post-slavery era, many people fought to continue to withhold certain privileges and limit access to that which would and should have been considered an American and human right.

Access and opportunity became a central theme of restriction as it pertained to black people, in the U.S. , both the north and south. Privilege described white people’s unrestricted rights in this country, and it was by design. Even into the 20th and 21st Centuries, access to a neighborhood swimming pool for people of color was few and far between- still largely inaccessible. At one time, pools were either restricted to whites only or they were segregated, as were drinking facilities, etc…. Whites had pools in their backyards, and people of color were lucky to have one in their entire community.
As black people migrated into the north and other places, many of which were inhabited by whites, whites moved out. They moved, took their wealth, privilege, and amenities with them. Stores closed, as did movie theaters, and pools.

Communities of color began to take on a generalized look of desolation, and disrepair, limited job opportunities and little chance for upward mobility in this nation. Strategically, there was a social and political denial of access and privilege to African-Americans and among other things, were there any existing fears of swimming, they were exacerbated by limited access.

Today, things are better, and now we see an entirely different mindset and new policies characterize a more humanistic landscape of the socio-political climate in this country. Access to what some may call the ‘creature comforts’ afforded to Americans, has improved for many blacks whose ancestors were strategically denied such access. Descendants of the original enslaved peoples now see a turnaround. Government officials, city planners, and businesses are  working to ensure equity in this society, and in NYC, which includes ensuring access to public pools, as well.

This young nation of ours is growing up, little by little. Some decision-makers recognize the necessity of targeting those communities which continue to resemble the objectives of a former discriminatory mindset.  We have been called to replace, rejuvenate and repair the fragmented services, opportunities and access once mostly denied or removed from the reach of people of color. It, change, must start somewhere and a neighborhood pool is one step along the way to a more equitable and purely democratic society. Time to teach people of color to swim! What do you think?

These were the depths of my thoughts after reading a recent article published in the New York Times. In their Race/Related series, this was definitely a good read. To read more, follow the link below:
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