By ISAAC FLOWERS TOWER Staff Writer
Over the years the U.S. government has attempted to inflate jurisdiction at the cost of individual rights. The American Civil Liberties Union founded to educate and defend the oppressed.
A group of Bethany students and professors stepped away from their daily schedule, yesterday Monday, March 27th, to take place in a revolutionary workshop. “Implicit Bias and Confronting Bigotry” was the topic of discussion. The American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia sent one of their community outreach coordinators, Mollie Kennedy to conduct the session. The primary purpose of this event was to inform on a bias and educate them on how to confront bigotry.
The workshop started with an open discussion asking the question “has anyone in here ever assumed a person due to their racial or sexual identity? This is called implicit bias, attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions unconsciously. This is a result of mental associations that have formed by direct and indirect messaging we often receive about different groups of people. It’s important that we know we all fall victim to this,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy also said, ”People tend to think racism is in the past but these issues are still present, the system is still harming people, in this era we have seen an effort to protect confederate monuments which is an example of institutionalized racism.”
Then, Ms. Kennedy talked about the fact that institutional racism is partially created by news media. For example, the press often showcase African Americans as violent. This can create an excessive police presence in communities of color. She explained how we can address bias externally and internally. Internally, we acknowledge our own biases, interact with other people, and look for examples that break common stereotypes. And externally, we can call out people for reinforcing stereotypes.
Ms. Kennedy referred to six steps to challenging prejudice, which were 1) Be ready 2) Identify the behavior 3) Appeal to Principles 4) Set Limits 5) Find an Ally/Be the Ally and 6) Be Vigilant. This captured the attention of the whole room; we often don’t speak up in situations where people are displaying overt signs of hatred toward another group. By being educated, it empowers people and instills a sense of confidence. Generally speaking, when addressing these actions, it’s also important to keep your cool.
To end the workshop, the whole room to participate in a “privilege walk.” Everyone gathered side by side holding hands. Mrs. Kennedy read specific life situations and if they pertained to you, you would either be asked to step back or forward. By the end of the exercise, everyone was spread out. Some people were closer to the front, and some were all the way in the back. This was an enlightening exercise because it forced participants to confront how society favors some individuals over others. Living in a world where places like social media significantly shapes perception, minorities are still being marginalized even though we have access to so many places to make friends. It’s up to us to put an end to it and really make an effort to find effective methods that destroy insidiously entrenched systemic racism.
Though the experience may vary depending on our perspectives, which are tied to our ethnic background or gender, informing ourselves is a good place to start on how to deal with these uncomfortable situations. These steps presented a nuanced approach for students to enact some real time changes in the Bethany community.