This article is not directly about my usual topic--fatherhood. But the issues discussed abound in fatherhood—how we raise our children, what we teach them, what we fear, how we mold them to be just like us, or cause them to be the opposite of us, and how we apologize to them. We are products of our upbringing and our children will be the products of your upbringing.
We are not taught to be biased, but what we are taught creates bias
There is no way to eliminate bias. It’s who we are, and those biases aren't always liabilities. Before we believe what we want to believe, we are taught what to believe. If a boy from Wisconsin is adopted by a couple from Chicago, he’ll likely grow up rooting for the Bears and against the Green Bay Packers. Jews raise Jews. Those who believe in Islam, raise their children to believe in Islam. Catholics raise Christians. Children of agnostics tend to raise agnostic children. We want to believe our heritage as sacrosanct. Beyond that, it is easier to believe what we are taught. Just ask any anyone who has challenged their family or religion by a contradictory lifestyle.
I am just as guilty as anyone. I too, believe what I want to believe, but I also have an awareness. I am aware of my bias and therefore try to consider the other side. My mind is not often changed, but I may have a more sympathetic view of an opposing thought. That alone, a more sympathetic view from both sides of an issue, would work miracles in reducing hate, and improving cooperation.
Bias in society
Let’s face it, one of the reasons the world is screwed up in so many ways is because we human beings are not sympathetic to the viewpoints of others. We rally around like-thinking people to air our complaints--but we rarely air competing views when we feel alone or outnumbered. Only the brave speak out when it is not politically correct for them to do so. Being brave, however, is not enough. You must have facts, an open mind, and not be emotional.
Among the brave is the young white college girl, marching with a majority of Blacks to protest unfair treatment of Blacks by police. Does she have unbiased evidence, an open mind, or has she been taught to feel guilty because she feels ‘privileged’? Also among the brave is Dr. Ben Carson, a Black man who escaped the ghetto to be a successful surgeon. He believes Blacks could better themselves by taking responsibility for the state of their lives and families, and to stop blaming others. Does Dr. Carson have the facts, an open mind, or is he unsympathetic to the historical plight of Black community of which he is a member? Both are speaking out of--what would be conceived as--their natural comfort zone.
It’s good when we can understand the other side of an issue, or hear it from someone who doesn't have an ax to grind. It could be both sides are right depending on where the shadows fall. As I have mentioned, most of us are taught what to believe by parents, friends, teachers, religion, the media, mentors, etc. My advice is to listen to them, but challenge them also--not necessarily directly, but in your own mind. To have biases is human, but bias is a leaning. Bias shouldn't be an immovable position anchored permanently with cement.
Examples of bias
We are biased within our head, within our family, within our community (political, race, country, sex, etc.), and within our religion. The only place where bias is accepted and understandable is sports. Bias in sports is for competition, fun, bragging rights, and escape. The most dangerous place where bias exists seems to be in religion. We've seen it over the centuries and we are seeing it, tragically in the Middle East, today! But blind bias is harmful whenever and wherever it exists. You can find various examples of bias here.
Bias exists even with reasonable people. Bias is most dangerous, however, with unreasonable people. You can not reason with some people any more than you can dribble a deflated basketball. At least you can inflate a basketball. Everyone wants to be on the ‘right’ side, but not everyone wants to be on the side of the truth. Being on the ‘right’ side is comfortable because it is right for you. Being on the side of truth, however, can be very painful. Sometimes too painful to bear!
My bias, until convinced otherwise
I believe our societal issues are not schools (bias: blame teachers), not race (bias: blame the other race), not crime (bias: blame the economy), not the economy (bias: blame politics). Those are symptoms of the real issue--the breakdown of the family. That’s what I want to believe. That’s my bias, not because I was taught it, not because it is easy, but because every issue points to it. Involved families would create better schools. The worst schools are in the worst neighborhoods. The worst neighborhoods have the worst economy. The worst economic areas have the most crime. The worst areas for criminal activity have the least effective families. The least effective families most likely do not have an involved father in the home. This is why I write about fatherhood.
I am very hopeful that open-minded thinking will grow. The kind of thinking that gets to the root of an issue, not the convenient biases people like to use. This is difficult to believe at times because closed-minded people have voices that are loud, angry, and demanding. You notice them, and sometimes you fear them. Fear is one of their tools, used in place of logic. When we hear loud voices, it’s often the sound of insecurity. Confident people are usually quiet people.
Bias will continue but, with open-minded, sympathetic thinking, we can normalize the biases that exist. This, more than anything, takes education and the leadership of fair-minded people, not hate mongers. It can be difficult to be persuaded to an unfamiliar way of thinking. However, it is easier for us all if we ‘live and let live’ when no one is harmed by an alternative view.
Bias is a story you tell about yourself--or a story told by anyone. Really courageous people admit when they are wrong. I haven’t always been courageous, but I want to believe that I’m working on it.