Unraveling biases for an equitable society

Two hands holding threads on either end of a ball of yarn pulling it apart.

The relationship between reflection and action

In the intricate tapestry of our contemporary societies, woven with diversity and subtle historical dynamics, a crucial question emerges: that of biases influencing our perception of the world and its inhabitants. We embark on a profound exploration of these invisible mechanisms, delving into the intricacies of our thoughts to reveal how our own biases, often unconscious, shape our understanding of the world around us.

Equity, inclusion, and diversity emerge as unavoidable social imperatives, but to truly integrate them into our daily lives, it is imperative to understand the nature of persisting biases. Beyond individual prejudices, we will venture into the transgenerational spectrum of influences, acknowledging the undeniable heritage we carry, often unknowingly. These biases, passed down from generation to generation, form an invisible fabric that colours our perception of the world, influencing our most mundane interactions, as well as our deep social structures.

This article proposes an authentic and straightforward reflection on these delicate themes. We call for an open dialogue, free from judgment, as it is in this collective honesty that the key lies to build together, an equitable and inclusive society. Our journey begins here and now, in the acknowledgment of our biases, to better unravel them and forge a future where diversity is celebrated, inclusion is the norm, and equity guides our daily actions.

In the delicate introspection of the mechanisms influencing our social interactions, this journey into the heart of biases reveals a pervasive reality in our modern societies. The works of Jones and Dovidio (2013) emphasize that biases, more than simple prejudices, are often elusive and deeply rooted in our profound and unconscious modes of thinking. This complexity is highlighted by the study of Greenwald, Krieger, and Nosek (2003), which underscores the subtlety of stereotypes and prejudices that permeate our perceptions. These automatic thought patterns, often unconscious, are deeply ingrained, subtly influencing our judgments and behaviors. Research emphasizes that these biases go beyond overt manifestations, penetrating our thoughts in a subtle manner, contributing to the construction of both individual and collective perceptions.

These biases silently permeate our perceptions and shape our relationships, as also highlighted in the works of Apfelbaum, Sommers, and Norton (2008) regarding the assessment of “racial colourblindness” and its implications in social interactions. The concept of “racial colourblindness” is closely examined, shedding light on how a strategic approach to racial ignorance, coupled with the concept of cultural humility, can influence our social interactions. This thorough evaluation of how we perceive and interact with others underscores the importance of challenging these pre-established patterns.

Equity, inclusion, and diversity emerge as guiding beacons in our collective aspirations, but a profound understanding of these concepts requires a meticulous exploration of the invisible patterns that persist. Thus, our initial step in this quest is to acknowledge the presence of these biases, recognize their insidious impact, and understand that unraveling these complex knots will necessitate honest self-reflection and a profound commitment to change.

At the heart of our exploration of transgenerational biases lies the imperative to go beyond the mere recognition of these subtle inheritances. These invisible threads of prejudice extend beyond personal influence; they also shape our social structures and our collective understanding of diversity. The inherited complexity, illuminated by previous discoveries, reveals the subtlety of stereotypes and biases that permeate our perceptions, adding an additional layer to the persistent fabric woven into the tapestry of our thinking.

It is crucial to acknowledge that these transgenerational biases are not remnants of the past but active forces influencing our attitudes towards others and guiding our decisions. The deconstruction of these inherited patterns requires deep and collective introspection, as emphasized by previous research. However, beyond mere recognition, there is a need to embark on an active process of change, where each individual becomes an essential link in the chain of transformation toward a genuinely equitable and inclusive society.

The inherited complexity offers a form of solution in that it challenges us to recognize these invisible ties without judgment and to understand them in all their subtlety. However, true progress lies in the collective awareness of this complexity and in the acceptance of the active role that each person can play in transforming our collective vision of others. It is in this acceptance that the key to our common advancement toward a future where acceptance transcends prejudices of the past resides, thus illuminating the path to a society where diversity is celebrated, inclusion is the norm, and equity guides our daily actions. An extensive exploration of transgenerational biases sheds light on the inherited complexity which guides our perceptions and relations, therefore putting a new perspective on colonial biases. This complex web, developed through centuries, reveals an inherent duality between the colonized and colonial mentalities, both tainted with specific biases.

In the exploration of transgenerational biases, the colonial biases, and the mentalities of the colonized and the colonizer, a complex duality unfolds, expressed through specific biases associated with each group. The mentality of the colonized, shaped within the context of subjugation and marginalization, may give rise to biases related to identity and self-perception.

On the other hand, the mentality of the colonizer may be tinged with stereotypes and preconceived notions related to superiority and the justification of colonial actions.

Understanding this duality of colonial biases through the lenses of the mentalities of the colonized and the colonizer lays the foundation for a profound reflection. It invites us to explore, not only the direct consequences of colonial history, but also the prejudices deeply rooted in the ways of thinking of each group. By adopting this approach, we pave the way for a necessary reconciliation to collectively build a more equitable society, where diversity is celebrated, inclusion is the norm, and equity guides our daily actions.

In light of our exploration of transgenerational, colonial biases, and the mentalities of the colonized and the colonizer, an imperative emerges: to cultivate authenticity and foster open dialogue. It becomes essential to transcend the barriers of judgment, inviting everyone to honest introspection, recognizing the influences of biases in our lives without succumbing to guilt but rather fueled by a sincere desire for change.

The approach involves welcoming each individual as a precious piece of our universe, as articulated in the vision of a society where diversity is a richness to celebrate. Respectful dialogue becomes the central tool to deconstruct prejudices, address challenging subjects without fear, and forge a new language, a new way of approaching others. Thus, in the present, lies our opportunity to rebuild the foundations of our coexistence, illuminated by the shared will for an authentic, inclusive, and equitable society.

In the wake of this in-depth exploration of the mechanisms that colour our societies, we have courageously committed to delving into the understanding of equity, inclusion, and diversity. As we unveil the invisible layers of biases transmitted across generations and ingrained in the pages of history, a truth emerges: the urgent need to deconstruct these mechanisms to construct a genuinely equitable future.

The undeniable impact of transgene­rational biases, highlighted in our reflections, underscores the pressing necessity of this quest. The threads woven through the ages influence our thoughts and actions far beyond our immediate understanding. These invisible threads remind us that equity can only be achieved if we commit to unraveling these complex knots that persist over time.

In the millennial dynamic where every facet of history carries its own biases, our sensitive exploration of the intricacies of colonial biases reveals the lingering scars of history but also the opportunity for reconciliation through open and respectful dialogue.

On the shores of our journey, concepts such as the “nudge” explored by Thaler and Sunstein offer an intriguing perspective. The idea of subtly guiding decision-making toward more equitable and inclusive behaviors invites us to exercise thoughtful discernment in our decisions and a sharper critical thinking, suggesting that each choice can be an opportunity to contribute to a fairer society.

The call for a “new verb” to define our commitment to inclusion resonates with crucial importance. It is here and now that we must recognize our own biases, discuss challenging topics without judgment, and together forge a collective vision of a world where diversity is celebrated as a richness, where inclusion is ingrained in the fabric of our daily lives, and where equity illuminates the path to a fairer future.

Thus, our journey extends beyond these pages, into the ongoing conversations, and the actions stemming from this awareness, for true transformation begins where reflection meets action, and equity becomes a tangible and shared reality. As educators and members of OSSTF/FEESO, we are the architects of the future generations of our country and the world. And for all of us who live as activists who care deeply about a just and inclusive future, this is vital work. It is with a spirit of hope and responsibility that we engage in this collective endeavor to build a more equitable and inclusive future.

1. Jones, J. M., & Dovidio, J. F. (2013). “Racial bias in response to others’ pain: Implications for interracial interactions.” Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 43(1), 42-56.
2. Greenwald, A. G., Krieger, L. H., & Nosek, B. A. (2003). “Stereotype explicitness and gender-based prejudice.” In Y. Kashima, M. Foddy, & M. Platow (Eds.), Stereotypes and prejudice: Their automatic and controlled components (pp. 64-89). Psychology Press.
3. Apfelbaum, E. P., Sommers, S. R., & Norton, M. I. (2008). “Seeing race and seeming racist? Evaluating strategic colorblindness in social interaction.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95(4), 918-932.
4. Pager, D., & Shepherd, H. (2008). “The sociology of discrimination: Racial discrimination in employment, housing, credit, and consumer markets.” Annual Review of Sociology, 34, 181-209.
5. “Thinking, Fast and Slow” par Daniel Kahneman
6. Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking, Fast and Slow. Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
“Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People” par Mahzarin R. Banaji et Anthony G. Greenwald
7. Banaji, M. R., & Greenwald, A. G. (2013). Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People. Delacorte Press.
“Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness” par Richard H. Thaler et Cass R. Sunstein
8. Thaler, R. H., & Sunstein, C. R. (2008). Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness. Yale University Press.
9. “The Social Animal” par Elliot Aronson
Aronson, E. (2011). The Social Animal. Worth Publishers.
“Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” par Robert B. Cialdini
10. Cialdini, R. B. (2006). Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. HarperCollins.

About Emma de Lannoy
Emma de Lannoy (she/her) Member of the Education Professionals District 32 Unité 64, Centre-Sud-Ouest de l’Ontario

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