Tabi on racial matters: Your bias training doesn’t fix systemic inequalities

| July 29, 2021

A textbook understanding of bias is about the tendencies, inclinations, feelings, opinions that we all have towards others.

Therefore, unreasonable biases towards a person or group could affect how we view them in the public or even determine if our organisation will consider them for a job interview.

Becoming aware of our biases as individuals and organisations is important because it helps us to see people as they are without consciously or unconsciously forming opinions about them because of the societal group that they belong in.

As people, we all have biases!!

What is wrong with Bias Training in workplaces

Research tells us that “we can’t change the way people feel about their behaviour/habit by giving them more information about it” which is the basis of bias training.

For example, extensive information about how “smoking-will-kill-you” doesn’t automatically change a person’s attitude to quit smoking. This is better achieved by educating people to make good choices about their own health based on the historical evidence of smoking related illness and the systems which create the addictions.

Through bias awareness and intentional self-reflection, we could uncover how we have come to form such opinions of others. Such awareness has the potential although, not guaranteed, for us to develop healthier daily practices of leaning and unlearning in how we relate with one another.

This is all well and good but changing individual acts of meanness towards others does not make any difference towards making the structure or system inequalities better.

Systemic inequalities

The systems that govern our society have been created to keep others on the side of disadvantage. So, naturally if we are serious about changing the narrative to do better and also help move others from the perpetuate disadvantage, then we need to understand the history of how those systems were created.

It is the “systems, processes and procedures that contribute to the development and perpetuation of a system in which the dominant group oppress all other racialised groups”.

Our biases centred around attitude, mindset or belief and the way in which one was brought up, is not entirely what keeps marginalised people on the disadvantage!!

So then; –

· How come we immediately run to bias training which has limited ability to fix these systems?

· Why is it, as a society we continue to take the easy road to nowhere?

· Why is it as a society we continue to spend hard-earned-money on bias training knowing it doesn’t create safe workplaces for everyone?

· Why is it as a society we continue to ignore programs that fix systems?

In Australia, Bias Training is predominantly offered by the same dominant group of people who have never experienced marginalisation, exclusion or stigmatisation.

These people have easy access to organisations, institutions and other workplaces to drive their simplified agendas which capitalise on marginalisation rather than effectively changing systems for the better of everyone.

Their domination in this market inhibits those who have spent years experiencing the impacts of marginalisation and learning how the systems function and the way to dismantle.

As a Black woman, I know for a fact, discussing racism in any space of society comes with a cost to me personally, loss of job perhaps or being unfairly labelled as a troublemaker.

But at what cost then to millions of racialised people who continue to be shut out of opportunity and who yearn to be able to fully participate and contribute to society?

It is as if their talents, knowledge, experience and skills are locked out and calcified.

If we take a moral ground approach, then one would say, how do we go to sleep when we know our very actions cause others to miss out.