Since my time as Justice Promoter began, I’ve had the privilege to visit a number of our Motherhouses as well as Mission Groups and Associate Groups to meet with our Sisters and Associates throughout the country. These opportunities give me the chance to get to know our Dominican family and talk about various justice issues that we are working on together.
At a number of these meetings, I’ve led a presentation and discussion on implicit bias. Implicit bias, according to the Kirwan Institute at The Ohio State University, refers to the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions and decisions in an unconscious manner. These biases, which encompass both favorable and unfavorable assessments, are activated involuntarily and without an individual’s awareness or intentional control.
During the discussion, the groups often talk about biases that we have been conditioned to through the media or from our childhood which can often cause us to assume doctors are male, cause us to feel unsafe if we notice our airplane pilot is female, or assume that young men wearing hooded sweatshirts might be up to no good. Through reflection and conversation, we can begin to see the root of many of these false biases and understand that our brains make these connections often without our awareness or approval on an unconscious level.
At a recent weekend Mass we heard in the Gospel the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead:
“Lazarus, come out!”
The dead man came out,
tied hand and foot with burial bands,
and his face was wrapped in a cloth.
So Jesus said to them,
“Untie him and let him go.”
These biases, which we can carry with us for a lifetime, can also be gradually unlearned. Through education, prayer, meditation, and building of relationships with others who are different from us, we can shed some of these biases.
As we now find ourselves in the midst of Holy Week, let us continue to untie the bands that bound us in order to grow in awareness of our own biases and work to meet Jesus as we arise from our own tombs and follow his footsteps of love, inclusion and justice.