What Keeps Us from Truth II (#674)
Wayne and Brad continue their exploration of a chart of 24 biases that affect the way we process life around us and how they can keep us from recognizing the truth, even while we're certain that we have it. If you haven't heard last week's podcast, you might want to go back and check it out because it sets the contest for this one. Find out how the Curse of knowledge can keep you from responding freely, or how your in-group bias will only make you more unaware of what others are going through. And, don't get us started on the Fundamental Attribution Error. This chart provides some fun and insightful rabbit trails to help us live more freely.
The Bias Chart at weforum.org
If You Can Help Us in Kenya
Good listening. I have a couple of comments on language used. I am not agreeing with the spirit and theme of the podcast.
1. The “privilege” language. When we say (correctly) “I have grown up with amazing privileges which many in the world lack,” this tends to lean to a “solution” of eliminating the privilege which is the wrong answer. Man well knows how to make everyone poor and oppressed (e.g. Soviet Russia, Cuba, Venezueala etc.) The challenge is to improve opportunities for many. I think talking in terms of opportunities better leads to discussion of improving opportunities for others. Privilege sounds very exclusive like we are in a zero sum game – not one in which every more people can “win” by having better opportunities. I also think the opportunity language leaves more room to talk about the reality that those of who had great opportunities can still talk about the role our good decisions and hard work played in exploiting those opportunities while recognizing that many people might be more talented, make just as good of decisions, and work harder and still be far, far behind just due to lack of opportunity.
2. When talking about subtle forms of discrimination that are remnants of past racism, I think it is better to talk about discrimination because I think a lot of what happens today is indeed hidden and subtle discrimination rather than current racism. I am not saying racism does not exist – it exists in may ways among many peoples. And I think many forms of racism hurt no one but the racist. But specifically in the case of the United States and discrimination against dark skinned people, there are forms of discrimination that are subtle and based on old attitudes and habits and not current actual racist beliefs.
If I might recall a story in this regard. A company I worked for for many years was quite progressive in its hiring – being one of the first major companies to hire women in technical fields. When the push for “affirmative action” first began decades ago, my company looked and saw that there were fewer dark skinned people being hired that was reasonable to expect. So the “affirmative action” was to seek qualified candidates in ways that had been being missed. It turned out the obvious first step was sending recruiters to the traditionally black colleges – without recruiters there, those students had little way know to know we were hiring. So my company had been been “discriminating” – badly so – but it wasn’t due to a current racist attitude. Yes it needed corrected. But the problem was not “racism”.
I believe that the use of discrimination language leaves a lot more room for people who bristle at being called “racist” to recognize the subtle ways in which discrimination still happens and change those ways.
(From Wayne): Hi Earl. I appreciate you adding to the discussion here. The reason this is so difficult to talk about is because the terms we use (racism, prejudice, discrimination) mean different things to different people. That’s especially true whether someone has benefitted from those things or been victimized by them. To many, admitting privilege does not require shame or that you’re playing a zero-sum game, just that you recognize your path to a fulfilled life had some advantages others didn’t have. And to your story, to those who have suffered from racist policies, be they intentional or simply out of ignorance, the effect is the same. I don’t hold “white guilt”, or despise the advantages I’ve had, but when I realize those advantages hurt opportunities for others, it makes me more generous in wanting to give back and create opportunities in which others can thrive. To be honest, part of what I feel called to do in Kenya is part of that. I have little hope that human governments will find justice. The rich will be coddled and the poor will be “managed.” The only way to overcome injustice in the world is through a generosity of spirit. No, it doesn’t change our weighted systems, but it will make a difference in another life.