Bias. Bigotry. Bullying.
Contrary to the knee-jerk reaction to the word “bias”, bias isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it’s the crucial element in making decisions and expressing our preferences. Experts who study human behavior say that we develop bias and preference from a combination of our biology, how we are brought up and socialized, and the experiences we have in life. For example, we all know people who do not eat dairy products because they are lactose intolerant. As a result, they will prefer almond milk with their coffee instead of dairy cream. Similarly, there will be others who just do not like the way dairy milk tastes and so would prefer coconut milk because that’s what they grew up drinking. There are also hidden biases that reside in our subconscious as a result of accumulated experiences we have had in our lives, and they influence, shape and inform our behavior and decisions on a daily basis. Have you ever wondered why you always choose to sit with someone you know over a total stranger or opt to ask for directions from a woman and not a man? These are all just examples of hidden biases affecting your behavior.
However, like any good thing, bias can go bad. The million dollar question then is, how can such a good and normal thing like bias, which we cannot live without, become a bad thing?
Bias, becomes dangerous when it turns into prejudice — that is when, based on our experiences, upbringing etc., we make preconceived judgments and conclusions about a person or a group of individuals that negatively affects their well-being. Prejudice, which essentially is “bias gone wrong”, can also be visible or hidden, and always has a negative impact — on the one who is prejudiced, those towards whom the prejudice is directed and society as a whole. The effect can range from hurting people’s emotions and feelings to actually endangering their very existence.
When prejudice is not checked, it can degenerate into bigotry, which is a stronger form of prejudice and is often accompanied by a severe mindset that produces discriminatory behavior like bullying. So any human being, actually, has the potential to become a bigot or a bully, because all it takes, is to let our biases become prejudice and leave them unchecked. It will quickly go south from there, and once on that slippery slope, it will degenerate rapidly.
Have you or someone you know fallen victim to prejudice, bigotry, or bullying?
In this room you will hear the emotional stories of three victims of different ages who have experienced bias, bigotry, and bullying. What does it look like? How did it feel? How were they determined to move on and learn from these experiences? Their stories remind us how racist comments, acts of prejudice and shameless bullying persist.