Unconscious Bias

Writer: Kyle Pearson

Within the last week, a video of two young black men being arrested for waiting on a friend in a Starbucks has gone viral. Starbucks coffee chain is finding themselves in a public relations nightmare due to one managers poor decision. The manager decided that the two men sitting in the Starbucks were breaking the law due to the not buying anything. It is important to recognize that many people, including myself, have loitered in a Starbucks for hours at a time. So, what made these men stand out to the manager?

An unconscious bias is defined as a prejudice or unsupported judgment in favor of or against a thing, individual, or group a in a way that is typically considered unfair. Having a bias doesn’t always mean belligerent racism that is clear for the public eye to witness Listening to the police call the manager made she simply stated, “I have two men in my café not buying anything refusing to leave.” This statement is not displaying blatant racism, yet the actions following were based on quick and unrightfully wrong profiling.

The focus of this is not to bash the manager who made the call, destroy the Starbucks image, or even focus on the two men profiled. The focus is to reveal the unconscious bias we all hold in our lives.

Take a minute and imagine a scenario, think of a car with a flat tire. A mechanic shows up and is starting to prepare the car in order to change the tire. It is important to realize the traits of the mechanic you imagined. Did you picture a man or woman? While it is stereotypical that a man can change a tire and a woman is not capable, many women are very capable of changing their own tires while some men in fact have no clue where to start.

A second scenario, imagine you are in an elevator surrounded by strangers of all kinds of backgrounds. You notice a five-dollar bill fall out of someone’s pocket and another person picks it up and pockets it, not aware anyone saw the maneuver. What race is the person who picked up the money from the ground? Did you imagine them returning it?

Based on past life experiences, habits passed down through family, and even cultural identity, unconscious biases are formed. It is essential to recognize these stereotypes in order to change the way you perceive the world to prevent incidents such as the one Starbucks has currently.

Simply recognizing the bias you hold is just the first step. After realizing the unconscious profiling, you may have been doing you need to dig deeper and ask, “Why do I think this way?” By doing this you will allow yourself to realize any experiences or cultural traits that may have lead you to think the way you have been thinking.

The final step to realizing your unconscious bias is to be cautious how you act in social situations, being sure not to establish any bias on an undeserving person. You would be surprised how amazing people can be if you simply give them a clean slate to start with.


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The Drive

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