By Allie Preyde and Gilbert Enenajor
Kathleen Wynne has just become Canada’s first openly gay Premier, as well as the first woman in Ontario to hold this prestigious position. More and more barriers are being broken, and fields that were once dominated by white men are becoming accessible to people with a variety of identities and backgrounds. Canada has legalized gay marriage, Obama has won a second term, and women are increasingly leading Fortune 500 companies. With all these successes in the fights for social justice, it may be easy to think that we live in a post-feminist, colour-blind, and generally accepting society.
While it may seem as though the fights are done and the rights have been won, prejudice and discrimination are more deeply imbedded in the social psyche than we like to believe. Overt displays of discrimination may no longer be socially acceptable, but the fact still remains that individuals have biases of which they themselves are often not even aware. These are called implicit biases. The hidden nature of these biases make them difficult to talk about and even more difficult to point out in the world.
Some students may already find themselves identifying with such a concept. Have you ever felt as though you were being treated differently because you were coloured, queer, or Muslim? Individuals will often see themselves as fair and unbiased without realizing that they are treating people differently based on traits that are probably unimportant to the interaction at hand. These traits could be anything from gender to ethnicity to sexuality to ability to religion to perceived economic status. People with the best intentions may unknowingly react to aspects of an identity about which they hold unconscious beliefs, schemas, or stereotypes. This reaction can cause unfair judgements and decisions, and can even affect grading and hiring practices. This is not a problem that is located in all those other people. This is a problem that is located in you, and you are not as unbiased as you think.
Trent is often seen as a progressive liberal arts school, and as such it would be easy for us to think that problems like discrimination and implicit bias are not present on our campus. Though we are still very much a green university, some have said we’ve lost the rest of our colours. The Trent Implicit Bias Group is holding a conference this March to discuss ideas related to and surrounding implicit bias, and we want to hear what you have to say. Any papers on topics from feminism, critical race theory, disability studies, and Indigenous rights will be considered. Submissions are due February 15, and can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or dropped off in the Philosophy Department.
Bias isn’t necessary, and even implicit biases can be changed. Let’s work to raise awareness on our campus and in our community. Join us March 22-23 for Trent’s first annual Implicit Bias Conference.