Posts Tagged ‘bias’

Please keep smiling

For several years, I worked next to a mosque. Its parking lot often overflowed on Fridays and religious holidays; on such days, my company’s owners permitted its congregants to park in the company parking lot.

Once, I saw women step out of a car and cover themselves for service. I smiled on my way into the office. They smiled back.

Many times, I walked by women already covered. I’d smile at each, if she looked at me; much more often than not, I’d see eyes wrinkling from smiles returned.

(Seeing mouths isn’t the most important thing to seeing smiles.)

After exchanging such smiles one afternoon, I remembered a conversation with a male friend years before and hundreds of miles away.

“You’re not supposed to look at them when they’re dressed like that!” he’d told me. I replied that I’d never heard such a thing, and that I’d keep greeting human beings as human beings.

I posted about the new smile and the old conversation on Facebook. “Please keep smiling,” one Muslim friend soon replied. 

I committed to doing so.

A year ago, I saw a Muslim family on a plane and just about broke into a cold sweat.

I came to my senses soon enough. Warm smiles were exchanged that day, too. 

When I returned home, I told my husband, “Fearmongering works!”

(I vow now not to let it.)

“Yep.” he replied. “That’s why they use it.”

Protesting at LAX last weekend, I saw many women wearing hijabs. In all the hubbub, I only spoke with two. I was tired and ineloquent as I greeted them with my two-year-old on my hip, but they were lovely.

“Ugh, I’m saying all the wrong things,” I mumbled a couple minutes into conversation. Both women, Sara and Hannah, said no, no, no; Hannah’s face was especially aglow with compassion that filled me with a sense of okay-ness.

Maybe I didn’t say the right words. Maybe there are no right words.

What I do know is that I said I’d keep smiling.

I meant it,

and I will.


For the people

A single word changed my presidential vote.

On August 4, 2016, U.S. president Barack Obama addressed Republican nominee Donald Trump’s cautions about potentially rigged elections as “ridiculous.”

Before he said this, I’d only barely persuaded myself to vote for the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton. I did so with grave reservations, having exited the party June 10, 2016, disgusted with how the purportedly neutral DNC appeared to have favored Clinton over contender Bernie Sanders.

My impressions were confirmed when WikiLeaks dropped a portion of the DNC emails leaked to it in late June. ( posted 22 of the “most damaging emails” here. Latinx voters were “taco bowl” voters, and Sanders a potential atheist whose affiliations they figured they could spin to perturb some voters for a “several points” difference.) WikiLeaks promised more emails were on the way, but wanted to arrange their timing and grouping for maximum impact.

I was left with the troubling question: If the DNC had already decided on “their” candidate apart from the people they’re supposed to represent, how can they really represent the people? More to the point, who do they actually represent? Read more…

Your comment, meet my trash can

Most comments on my blog are lovely: thoughtful, eloquent, empathetic. They’re so overwhelmingly lovely that it surprises me when I see the other kind, which I deposit directly in the trash.

What I consider “the other kind” expands beyond clear hate speech, generally falling into one or more of a handful of categories I call:

The Four Deadly P’s Read more…

Not terrorists: the joy and love actually present

Flying to Oregon recently, I saw a young mother wearing a hijab a few rows ahead of me and my children.

I felt wordless apprehension when my eyes landed on her husband: What if he’s one of them?! are the words I’d assign to such apprehension. What if he’s a terrorist?

I was horrified with myself the moment I realized what had happened. There was nothing in my environment that would reasonably lead me to conclude either the husband or wife were anything other than another family in transit, which meant I was judging them based on factors outside our immediate environment. I was judging them based not on their own acts or demeanor but an aspect of their appearance, evidencing implicit bias.

When we all prepared to deboard soon after, the family made its way toward the rear exit. I’d walked myself away from my unfounded suspicion, so that I was no longer paying attention to them. I was thinking of the trip and my boys and a million other joyful things.

I propped my toddler on my hip as I waited for my opening to enter the exit aisle. I vaguely noted Littler J was grinning, and so followed his eyes to the target of his grin: the Muslim family’s toddler, propped on Mom’s hip and grinning back at Littler J.

My focus quickly rolled away from toddler to mom. My eyes met hers and we burst into mirror smiles.

“Fearmongering works!” I reported when later recounting my initial apprehension to my husband. (“Yep.”)

I find hope in Littler J’s smile. I will do what I can to sustain that, so that as he grows

he sees not fearful, bias-inspired could-bes and acts instead on

what he does see: the joy and love actually present.

This post inspired in part by my just-younger sister’s MLK, Jr. Day post.

For more on my journey of facing my own implicit biases, this post is a good jump-off point.

Being color brave

Sandra Bland was taken into custody after failing to signal a lane change.

She died in custody a few days later. Though she’d tried to post bail just two hours before and would soon be starting her dream job, she was reported as having committed suicide.

I would have taken this story at face value a few months ago, but something happened to change that.

I was between jobs a couple months after events in Ferguson, Missouri inspired a series of protests across the nation. While my children slept, I browsed Twitter, Instagram and Vine for firsthand accounts of both protests and police brutality. I became increasingly agitated by the stark differences between firsthand–yet somehow “unofficial”?–accounts and the secondhand news media accounts treated as official. To hear the secondhand accounts represented as truth infuriated me. I also felt guilty, because I’d never before thought to question reporting I’d more or less taken for neutral presentation of fact; the problem was doubtfully a new one.

As I stood on the precipice of understanding that America’s race problem isn’t just one of redneck outliers, I watched horrifying videos. If others in this country were forced to face brutal realities just for stepping out of their homes, I could fully recognize that brutality and the braveness of stepping out regardless. Read more…

Leading like Tara & Louise

“You can’t trust women,” my mom told me often in my youth.

“Women are terrible managers,” she added as I neared working age. “They’re especially terrible to other women.”

I questioned her stance on many things: “So was that gem from Star or The Enquirer, Mom?” I don’t recall ever once questioning the veracity of her sweeping statements about women, nor thinking–consciously–what these words implied about me, my sisters and our futures.

I’ve thought a lot about leadership recently. I’ve thought about messages like my mom’s communicated in countless ways, verbal and nonverbal, in and outside workplaces today.

I reject them. Completely.

I taught English in Japan after graduating from law school. Read more…

I’d much rather love you

“One of my friends said I’m a girl if I like pink,” my five-year-old sighed from his car seat.

I burst out laughing. I didn’t mean to make light of my son’s gloominess, but the statement was so preposterous–in so many ways–I couldn’t repress my mirth. 

I’ve heard statements like this many times before, but somehow taken them In A Very Serious Adult manner. I’ve sternly explained to my son all the ways I know of that’s wrong.

But this particular evening a few weeks ago, I laughed. I kept laughing between apologies, until I could catch my breath and try explaining my laughter. Read more…

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