Bias Definition Part II: Drawn to People Like Ourselves
Before you decide if there is a bias depicted in the clip, take a look at our definition one more time: A bias is an inflexible, positive or negative, conscious or unconscious belief about a particular category of people.
The answer, you’ll be distressed to hear, isn’t straight-forward. Might some of the characters’ friends have a bias against non-Latinos? Maybe, but it is impossible to know based solely on the evidence in front of us.
Being a nation in which segregation is a painful part of our history, we are tempted to assume that the clustering of groups is a sure sign that something is wrong. Does the group feel biased against others? Are they deliberately keeping people who are not like them excluded? In extreme cases, we might even go so far as to speculate if they are plotting something or, at the very least, talking about the rest of us.
Being drawn to people like ourselves is perfectly natural. Let’s face it, it is comforting to be with people with whom we have something in common. With that commonality comes a sense that we can get along, have something to say to each other, and be able to communicate effectively.
In fact, those of us who have a strong sense of group identity tend to be the very people who are most receptive to the ideas and input of other groups. This may seem paradoxical, but researchers in human psychology argue that having a healthy ethnic identity is essential to feeling good about other cultures.
When you think about it, this is really just a global version of personal self-esteem. Those who have a firm sense of individual identity and self-worth are less threatened by new ideas, fresh values, and unfamiliar ways of doing things. Group identity and group self-esteem make us more, not less, receptive to what other groups have to offer. And that, in turn, means we are less apt to be biased against them.
Having said all that, a caution is in order here. Being comfortable with your own group is not a sign of bias – our Latino subject and her friends are on safe ground. However, this can be carried too far if we become isolated from people who are different and, in turn, fail to get to know people of different backgrounds. Yes, this is one of those instances in life when we can safely have it both ways – bond with our group and reach out to others. Sounds like a perfect cure for bias to me.
If you’d like to learn how to defeat bias in your workplace, take a look at Dr. Thiederman’s new book, 3 Keys to Defeating Unconscious Bias: Watch, Think, Act