IMPLICIT BIAS: How do We Change?

Implicit: implied though not plainly expressed. Bias: prejudice in favor of or against one thing, person, or group compared with another, usually in a way considered to be unfair.

ANYONE who reads this has attitudes towards people or associates stereotypes with them without our conscious knowledge.  Harsh?  Uncomfortable? Ok, but no one arrives at a certain point in their lives without this common behavior we all share.  It’s part of our social cognition that occurs because of the brain’s natural tendency to look for patterns and associations in the world.  And before you go, “Whoa, wait a minute…not me”, NONE of us (including this writer) are free from implicit bias here or anywhere else in the world. It’s a pattern that has been created for millennia – and sadly, will continue.

Sounds hopeless, right?  So, is there any possibility we can change?  Recognizing that implicit bias is insidious yet entrenched in our society and language is only one small step.  But nothing changes if we don’t find and take that path to change.

So, what can we do to change our implicit biases?   We can start by examining the language we use, for example, describing something in absolute terms: literally, black, and white.  Neither are absolute, yet this clouds our cognitive awareness when we use these nouns.  What other words could we use?  What else can we do?

We can elect people who recognize this change is necessary in not only how we personally act and react, but at every level of government. A race-informed city fosters a supportive environment for collective, community-wide racial healing and systemic, structural equity. Rooted in an understanding that government at all levels has played a role in creating and maintaining racial inequity, resulting in a lack of access and opportunity for people of color in everything from education and employment to housing and healthcare, race-informed cites seek to redress structural racism through an analysis of their own operations and make necessary changes in policy and practice.

Even though Texas ranks at the bottom in the country for healthcare and education, three of Texas’s cities have ranked highest in investing in and building the many things that make communities good places for people to not only live and work, but to thrive in an inclusive environment:  Dallas, El Paso, and San Antonio. 

We must continue to examine how these dynamically planned, designed, and managed city structures contribute to not only shape urban life and culture for the benefit of all, but also re-shape attitudes, behaviors, and communities for better outcomes.

What Defines A “Living” City on the Move?

  • Broadly Partnered: Partnering with allied parties — public, private and philanthropic — as demands for services, revitalization and social justice grow
  • Resident-Involved: Listening to diverse voices in the community to meaningfully engage residents in problem-solving conversations
  • Race-Informed: Bringing a racial equity lens to vital community discussions about solving problems and building preferred futures
  • Smartly Resourced: Prioritizing how resources are raised and allocated to support evidence-based investments in infrastructure, technology and people
  • Employee-Engaged: Doing the public’s work — from the front lines to the back office — in ways that tap employees’ creativity, expertise and spirit of service
  • Data-Driven: Seeing around corners and evaluating program performance and policy needs through analysis of the numbers

New Braunfels and Comal County communities can be a better equipped community to do what needs to be done for the public good; we must be resilient and band together.  Yet, this all  starts with electing those who will effect change and the kind of policies that will start to unravel archaic social structures and biases, and in equipping our city for whatever comes next.  

It’s not due to a federal mandate or a foundation grant or some other financial windfall, but because the people of government — elected and appointed leaders, line of business managers and frontline workers — and the community they serve, understand it’s the right thing to do.

Unsilenced, Unapologetic, and Unstoppable

THE FIGHT FOR FREEDOM, EQUALITY AND SOCIAL JUSTICE

(FIRST PUBLISHED AS A GUEST COLUMN IN THE HERALD-ZEITUNG, MAY 30, 2020, AND RE-POSTED HERe by AUTHOR, LYNN SILVER’s permission)

As an inquisitive young girl growing up in the deep south, my endless questions about life were often stifled or ignored. Examples: Why can’t I drink from a “colored” water fountain? Why do men have one title, Mr., and women have two titles, Miss or Mrs.? Why does a woman change her name when she marries?

My need for understanding these social norms was only satisfied by looking closely at the subtleties of everyday living and researching the history of human behavior.

The Civil Rights Movement and Women’s Movement peaked in the l960s and 1970s.

When the first issue of ‘Ms. Magazine’ was published in 1972, I felt I had finally found honest, concrete and rational answers. In particular, the title Ms. became an equalizer with Mr., a beginning in the drive to de-emphasize the marital status of women. The issue of titles personally surfaced when I was working as a traveling court reporter in 1975. On my first travel voucher, I noticed the blocks next to the signature line had two choices — Miss or Mrs. — so I drew in another block and added Ms.

When I handed the voucher to the presiding judge, he looked up over his glasses, and yelled “What is this?” I answered that it was my travel voucher which required his signature. Again, he shouted, “I will not sign this, I don’t want the folks in Atlanta thinkin’ I’m a Women’s Libba.” I answered “Sir, would you be willing to put that in writing?” He threw the paper down on his desk, signed it, and told me to get out of his office, at which time I thanked him with a mocking smile.

Judith Kovacs-Long, an assertive member of my generation who has a strong grip on effective communication, tells about working on a committee in the 1980s and being assigned to a work group. The man in charge told her she would be the “chairman” of that committee, to which she replied “I will be the chairperson, chair or committee head, but I will not be chairman.”

He indignantly responded, “What difference does it make what you are called? It’s the job you do that counts!” to which she replied, “Fine, I’ll be ‘chairman of my committee’ if you will be ‘chairwoman’ of yours.”

Historically, the answer to discrimination against women lies in an ancient injustice that kept 50% of the population legally, morally and physically under the control of the other half.

In Britain in the 18th and 19th centuries, women had no rights and were considered property. Wife sales were technically against the law but popular, nevertheless. The unwanted woman was led to market in her Sunday best with a rope around her neck and auctioned off. Women in the United States started the fight for equality in 1848, when suffragists lobbied Congress to pass an amendment to enfranchise women. The movement for equality grew and protests were rampant due to inaction by the government.

Women who publicly protested discrimination were beaten, raped, slashed on their breasts and face to disfigure their femininity, and imprisoned.

Female prisoners who went on hunger strikes were held down and force fed through large tubes driven through their nostrils or mouth, leaving them with chronic injuries and permanent disabilities.

These cruelties were painful, degrading and left a moral stain on US history. The fight for freedom became even stronger and women could not be stopped even though it meant physical suffering, loss of income and mental anguish. This onslaught of passion for freedom eventually resulted in many laws that transformed the lives of women: the right to vote, 1918; the right to file for divorce, 1937; the right to contraception for married women, 1965; the right to equal pay, 1970; the right to contraception for single women, 1972; the right to abortion, 1973; the deeming of marital rape to be unlawful, 1991; the right of same sex adoption, 2002, and the right of shared parental leave, 2015.

Culturally we still have a long way to go for women to see a genuine gender balance, but a pink wave is on the horizon for 2020. In the 116th Congress, women currently make up nearly one quarter of the chamber.

The House includes 101 women out of 435 total representatives. The 100-member Senate currently has 26 female senators. Out of 193 UN countries, the United States ranks 106th on political gender parity.

Locally, the Democratic Women of Comal County is a large group of thoughtful, progressive women who continue the fight for equality and social justice who celebrate the power of women by supporting and uplifting each other, and who uphold Democratic values.  We strive to be the heroines of our own lives, recognizing that our self-worth is defined by strength of character. This year, we are especially proud of local women who are candidates for office: Stephanie Phillips (Texas House 73), Colette Nies (County Commissioner, Precinct 3), and Lindsay Poisel (County Commissioner, Precinct 1).