Assumptions, Biases & Irrational Fantasies

Category Archive

The following is a list of all entries from the Possible Discrimination category.

Speaking Up Is Hard to Do…

Today, while I was at work, one of the teachers made a comment about wanting to choose a doctor who had gone to school in the United States. Then, she said “I’m sure that’s biased…” to me in a half-joking kind of way, since I’m the resident anti-bias lady, and I immediately responded, “Oh, that’s okay.” also in a half-joking kind of way.

But then, walking to the train station on my way home, I wondered should I have said something more? Did I miss a teachable moment? What if a student had heard her inadvertantly? How would a child from another country feel about such a statement? Would training in a European country be better than training in an Asian or African country? This brings up lots of questions.

In the moment, I immediately thought about my mother, and how she feels similarly. I started to share that, then decided not to. I think I’m kind of ashamed that my mom feels that way, though she states that her primary issue is whether or not she can understand the doctor’s speech if they have an accent. And I agree that it is important to be able to understand one’s medical care provider. Honestly, I think in my mom’s case it has more to do with having been frustrated about not being able to choose her medical provider due to HMO issues.

In the case of this teacher, I see her being overwhelmed at the long list of providers to choose from, looking for some way to narrow it down. But it does seem problematic to make such a judgment. But what really confounds me is this: when do I decide to speak up about something, and when do I let it go? When is it appropriate? Anti-bias work requires that you generally make an effort to confront bias more often than a person typically would. Now I’m wondering if I should mention it to her sometime.

I’ve spent my life attempting to cultivate some credit as a badass straight-talker who tells it like it is and calls ’em like I see ’em. Really though, I’m kind of a wuss when it comes to confrontation. I’ll do it, but first I’ll procrastinate and ignore the problem and avoid it and start to address it and chicken out and dance around it and see if I can get out of it somehow. Then, when I can’t avoid it anymore, when avoiding it will lead to clear and certain disaster, then I’ll deal with it. And of course, after that I’m totally relieved, wishing I’d done it sooner. Life’s funny that way.

But there will always be an excuse as to why I can’t confront bias. There will always be a reason why it seems like the wrong moment. Why it seems like it’s not such a big deal. Anti-bias only works if we stop making so many excuses, bite the bullet, and act. So I think I will say something to her about it. I’m not gonna pick a fight or anything, but I’ll just mention it, find some way to relate it to the classroom setting. This is the hard work, and if I’m not willing to do the hard work, then I have no right to ask anyone else to.

I’ll report back on what happens. Until then…


In the infant classroom…

Today, I had a couple of moments where I felt like these teachers in the infant room weren’t paying as much attention to my kid as the others, and my immediate assumption was that it was because she’s black.

Of course, then I went through the logic and the reasoning and rationalizations – for one thing, she wasn’t there as a registered infant, she was there with me because my childcare fell through. So she wasn’t their responsibility. Also, there were quite a few children in there and very busy.

Besides those things, I’m pretty accustomed to Babygirl getting a lot of attention, so I guess I notice it when people aren’t really noticing her or asking about her at all. Then I wondered about whether it might have something to do with my girl wearing orthotic leg braces. Disability makes a lot of people uncomfortable, and leg braces are fairly visible. Then I wondered if the other kids would pick up on that discomfort and end up internalizing it.

I have no concrete proof to back this stuff up. So what is it, then?

These weren’t the regular teachers, they were visiting directors from other centers. And actually, one of them would talk to Babygirl occasionally, but it seemed as though the other wasn’t even acknowledging her.

One thing I’m sure is affecting my opinion is that neither of these women acted as though they had much interest in acknowledging me when I first came into the room. I was put off by that, and I think it essentially set the tone for our interaction in my eyes. From that point on, I think I saw them through the lens of 2 strange women who didn’t think enough of my (or my daughter) to acknowledge that we exist.

I have to acknowledge that these impressions that I had could easily be mistaken, that I could have misread them. I get touchy about white people who aren’t particulary friendly. I guess I think that if they don’t make an effort to be welcoming, then they could easily be unwelcoming. I often wonder exactly how many people secretly dislike black people, and sometimes I put that on people whom I don’t know very well. It’s a survival technique, of course, but it obviously doesn’t serve me well as often as I use it. And I’m definitely a little more defensive about my daughter – she has faith in all people right now, and I hate to see her look and smile so big at someone and they don’t notice or acknowledge her.

What can I do about this kind of thing? I think that part of it is just stuff I’ll have to learn to live with. I have to be careful about being over-sensitive about people’s reactions to my girl – my mom tends to do that with me. Also, I can try to model what I want for her in my interactions with other kids. That way I’m not transferring whatever I’m dealing with onto them and not treating the well, and then I’m providing a reference for how I want my daughter to be treated, more or less putting my money where my mouth is.

I still don’t know if what I noticed was real or imagined. I’ll just have to keep on watching.