The Dragonfly Forest

They have been given names such as devil’s darning needle, ear sewer, horse stinger, skeeter hawk, and the snake’s servant. Actually, Dragonflies are beneficial, peaceful, and stunning. You are a Dragonfly if you are: ADD/ADHD, dyslexic, dysgraphic, Asperger’s, NLVD, autistic…

Monday, July 15, 2013

Bias opinions and jury verdicts

This post is NOT about trying to prove the jury in the Trayvon Martin George Zimmerman case was right or wrong in the decision they made; it is about being open to critical thinking, bias thinking, and how our own experiences can taint our perceptions.  A while back I posted about confirmation bias and implicit bias (We all have bias opinions).  These are VERY important concepts to understand and I fear that they are not appreciated by most people in our country (I am focused on the United States because that is my frame of reference). 

Over the last few weeks I have heard and read many comments how this case is/should be/shouldn’t be… about race.  This case is NOT about race, it is about bias and prejudice and one of these areas of bias happens to be racial.  Racial profiling exists everywhere, you cannot change that fact.  I find it very frustrating when I hear (or read) a comment from a person how they are “color blind.”  This is impossible, no one can be color blind.  This is how we label and judge people; it can be overt or covert.  You are often unaware of the biases you have but they ARE there!  It is human nature and I encourage everyone to take the Harvard Implicit Bias Test (Harvard Implicit Bias Testand you will see that it does exist!  Bias and prejudice exists in all people: toward all races, genders, ages, and even people with disabilities. 

The characters of the people involved in this case, Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman were discussed by the attorneys and the media.  Sadly, each side used confirmation bias to prove their points often painting a picture of what they wanted the women on the jury to perceive about each person.  This is another way to continue the bias perceptions and beliefs.  For example, Trayvon was portrayed as a criminal with a history of deviant behaviors and drug use.  What was not mentioned is how he only had the developmental level of his teenage brain and his previous life experiences as a young black male.  I have written about the teenage brain before and how this brain is cognitively different and not as mature as the adult brain (Understanding the teenage brain what you need to know and How the brain works).  This is important to understand.  It is also important to understand that white entitlement exist (here’s a great blog piece that explains this: white-privilegeand African Americans are still treated differently. 

Here’s a video clip from Michael Moore’s movie “Bowling for Columbine” about the History of America (yep, I’m aware of my confirmation bias here folks): A Brief History of the USA Bowling for Columbine.

Okay, see there really is a long history of bias and prejudice – this was only a few examples and sometimes our own history books are based on white perception, but that is a whole different post I will write in the future.

The point I am trying to make here is that no matter who we are or our personal experiences our thoughts and opinions are tainted.  We MUST work to fight against our initial reactions and look beyond our biases (we must first acknowledge that we have them too).  We must work hard to become empathic and see the full picture.  One of the movies I suggested parents watch with their kids this summer is “12 Angry Men” (Must See Movie - 12 Angry Men).   

Here’s a great clip from the movie that makes a great point.  I again recommend this movie to watch with your children, especially now.

So with all this information what should we do?  WE NEED TO STAND UP FOR CHANGE!  The jury has spoken.  You may or may not believe justice was served but we must move on from here. We must acknowledge that we do discriminate and only focus on the things that validate our beliefs while ignoring things that go against these beliefs (confirmation bias).  We must stand up against prejudice and bias. Accept that we have implicit biases, because we ALL do.  We must question our own opinions and test out if we would feel the same way if the people were of different races, genders, ages…  Then we must ask ourselves if we are being truthful or is it just more confirmation bias.  

We must make laws that make sense.  We need to be a more UNITED America not divided state by state when it comes to laws.  We need to hold the law makers accountable for their own biases and prejudices.  I have sadly seen too many politicians not understand how their own experiences taint their decisions.  What often happens is a politician has a strong opinion about a matter until it directly affects their own life (gay marriage, dyslexia bills, gun laws…).  Why are we not teaching and practicing empathy?  Why must we be so self-absorbed and egocentric?  Open up your eyes, ears, and heart so you can be a person who makes these changes.  This isn’t about being a specific political party it is about being an empathetic human being. 

Please do NOT use my blog post for your own confirmation bias to attack or defend your own beliefs and opinions as to the verdict.  This post is to help you have empathy, open your mind to the other person’s perspective, understand what it is like to really be in someone else’s shoes, and unite together to make appropriate changes to our laws so this tragic can NEVER happens again.  If you want to help others, than share this blog to spread empathy to others.