Rosetta Lee, teacher, and outreach specialist at the Seattle Girl’s School, recently spoke at assembly, focusing on implicit and unconscious bias in everyday life. She has been a diversity speaker and trainer since 2004, working with a variety of topics including cross-cultural communication, identity development, gender and sexuality diversity, and bias. In a short video with the National Association of Independent Schools, Rosetta speaks about the importance of her diversity work.
Rosetta started assembly by, pointing out that in over a decade of conducting training, she has mostly encountered people with a desire to do good. They want to be inclusive, kind, and fair. The problem comes when they have to evaluate how perceptive and fair-minded, they actually are. The human mind takes in millions of pieces of information at any moment, but cannot actively process all of it, so it ends up taking mental shortcuts, she explained. The brain also makes assumptions based on certain associations, which can lead to biases. Rosetta illustrated twenty different cognitive biases that mess with our decision making and behavior.
Rosetta moved on from the general category of unconscious bias, which includes all types of judgments, to implicit bias against individuals or demographic groups. She defined implicit bias as “a preference for or against a person or group of people that operates on a subconscious level.” One way to find out your implicit biases is to take the implicit association test. While the test cannot predict an individual’s choices based on their biases, it is more predictive of how groups make decisions.
Rosetta reflected on this stating, “that ‘aha!’ moment gave me motivation to think about where this comes from, do I want this to be persistent, and how might it affect my behaviors.” The test is useful in identifying biases that you don’t want to affect your life. She added, “Instead of asking myself ‘do I have biases?’ I started to ask ‘which biases?’ and ‘to what degree do they show up in my life and in my actions?’ The reality is that the research shows that implicit and unconscious bias affects so many outcomes.”
After outlining common implicit biases, Rosetta presented the question, “what can we do?” The first step is accepting our biases. She proclaimed, “We move away from this idea that good people don’t have biases. I think that good people actually do something about their biases. In those moments when judgment is quick or when it’s easy to leap to conclusions we have to slow down and go, ‘Why might somebody be doing this?’ or, ‘If I or another person was doing the same thing how might I interpret it? All of these things are important before we jump to conclusions.”
She ended by noting, “For me, it’s this idea of moving from our professed values to our lived values.” She continued by urging others to do what they can by actively challenging those stereotypes, actively working to build relationships, and actively working to make sure that our community is the welcoming, fair, and kind one that we want it to be.”