Tag Archives: bias

Systemic Racism in many forms…even dolls!

27 Jul
Last week in Calgary, a woman was shopping for dolls for her children at Toys R Us and made a startling discovery – the “dark skinned” doll was priced lower than it’s “lighter skinned” counterpart (those are the words from the CTV new report).toys r us dolls
Image from: http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/toys-r-us-says-doll-pricing-discrepancy-due-to-an-operational-error-1.2997459

So, that’s a problem.

The woman was horrified and called the manager who told her that they were aware of the issue, and had already taken it to corporate (where pricing is set).

Also a problem.

The price has since been noted as an operational error and corrected – both dolls are priced at $22.99 (the lower price).

I’m going to go with the operational error explanation – but here’s what comes up for me.

Corporate knew about it, and did nothing until someone complained.
How many other people were in that store, looking for dolls, and didn’t say anything? And why is that?
I’m going to argue that it’s because we have a deep bias that dark skin colour lowers value. And not just in toys….

Then, let’s think about this:
If a Black woman had complained, what would this have looked like?
Often when people of colour advocate for themselves around issues of racism, we are seen as:

  • taking things too personally
  • being too sensitive
  • having an agenda
  • and let’s not forget the “angry Black woman” stereotype!

So I would bet that if a Black woman had raised the issue, we at the very least wouldn’t have the same news coverage.

And why do I say if?
Because many people probably picked up that doll and said nothing. And some of those people were likely people of colour. Over time, when you are inundated with messages about your worth (or lack thereof) you begin to believe it. So I use if, because raising the issue would mean that they would expect something to be done – and that’s an expectation that (sadly) I’m not sure is always realistic.

Allies are important. They shine lights on issues of injustice and exclusion in a way that often makes it possible for the mainstream to hear and take notice.

But in that noticing, there is a bigger issue for us to come to terms with – we live in a society where some people are not seen as equal.
Not really.
And that needs to change, no matter whose voice is shouting it from the rooftops.

See more. 

Copyright 2016 Annemarie Shrouder
Speaker, Facilitator, and Consultant on issues of Diversity & Inclusion

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Police Accountability and What it Tells us About Unconscious Bias

29 Jan

I have been listening to and reading the news about the guilty verdict (attempted murder) of Constable Forcillo here in Toronto, in the shooting death of Sammy Yatim.

I’m probably the last person to have seen the video, and it struck me how many shots were fired as Sammy lay there on the streetcar floor. So awful…
For communities and people who have been shining a light on (and experiencing) police violence, this verdict might suggest that tides may be starting to change…we’ll see.

One thing is for sure – there is a lot of work to do to get at the root of the problem and create sustainable change.

On CBCs Ontario Today this week, a retired RCMP officer called in to say that in 35 years of service he only pulled his gun once – to shoot a deer. He was concerned about the information that Constable Forcillo had pulled his gun 12 times in 3 years of service. This, the caller said, is a red flag that didn’t seem to have been addressed – at great cost.

So here is my thought for today:
As we recognize more and more the impact of unconscious bias on our actions, we have to also recognize the resulting impact of unconscious bias on marginalized communities. By virtue of how bias works, these groups will be impacted the most, and in the most negative ways.
If we couple this recognition with the deadly force that police are capable of (given they have tasers and guns) it should be obvious that we need to do some very deep examination of the training, the culture and the accountability within the policing system.

But make no mistake, policing is not the only institution that needs examination and change. All service organizations are in a position where unconscious bias means they see certain groups differently and the results can be devastating.

It’s a tangled web.
Messages about who has value (and who doesn’t) are everywhere; we swim in the soup of unconscious bias every day. And, it’s unconscious.
But we can, and we must move beyond talking about it, to examining how it impacts service, and then putting systems in place that help us shine a light on it, keep it on our radar, mitigate it, and work towards making a positive difference in how we see and serve populations. Particularly marginalized populations.

See more.

Copyright 2015 Annemarie Shrouder
Speaker, Author and Facilitator on issues of Diversity & Inclusion
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What can we do?

20 Nov

In the aftermath of Paris (and Beirut) – any tragic event –  many of us ask ourselves what we can do.
These situations are so big and so overwhelming that we often also think big – and get overwhelmed.

But change can happen in small and meaningful ways. Here are a few things we can all do every day to make a difference:

Recognize your biases.
Question your assumptions.
Really see people instead of stereotypes.
Ask questions and get the facts.
Be a critical consumer of the media.
Get to know people who are not “like you”.
Expand your awareness and your lens.

Be an ally – speak up and step in when someone is being treated unfairly because of who they are.

The world needs more love.

See more.

Copyright 2015 Annemarie Shrouder
Speaker, Author and Facilitator on issues of Diversity & Inclusion

Radio Show Host – Creating Families

The violence we see isn’t the only violence there is

15 Nov

If you google “violence around the world on Friday November 13” you will see pages and pages of links on the attacks in Paris. I stopped at 9.

But Paris wasn’t the only place people were killed on Friday – Beirut, for example, also had a deadly attack.
Why didn’t we hear as much about that?

Instead we have been inundated with Paris footage and conversations about ISIS.
Don’t get me wrong – what happened is terrible. My heart hurts when I think about it.
But my point is that our hearts could be hurting about many things that occurred in the world two days ago – how come the spotlight has been on this one tragedy?

Welcome to systemic (and often unconscious) bias – where certain people, issues, cultures, ethnicities, religions, genders, ages, abilities, skin colours, sexual orientations, countries, values (the list could go on) are shared and highlighted while others are sidelined.

It happens in the news, in government, when making policy, in education curriculum, in schools, in our daily conversations.
And because of this we miss much of what is happening to our fellow human beings around the world – the good and the tragic. We also form opinions and solidify stereotypes about who is and isn’t “good”, and who is and ins’t “bad”.
I also think that we are slowly stripped of our humanity and our natural instinct to connect with others. Especially Others who are Not Like Us (capitals intentional).

The dangers of bias are many.
If we are not aware of bias – systemic, unconscious, personal – we:

  • don’t ask questions of what we are seeing, reading, hearing and learning or the people/organizations/systems that provide the information.
  • may think that what we are seeing is all there is.
  • may not realize that we may not be getting the whole story.
  • can start to believe that some people are better than others
  • can start to believe that some people are worse than others
  • can form rigid opinions based on only a percentage of the facts or reality – or a skewed portrayal of these.

These are just a few of the ways bias can sweep us along like a tidal wave, and carry us with it without our realization. All of us. We are inundated with messages all day, from various sources about what and who has value and what and who does not, who we should fear and who is safe, and who deserves (and doesn’t deserve) our time and attention – and respect.

More and more, our responsibility is to be critical of what we see and hear, question what else there is, question ourselves, and remember our common humanity.

Quite simply, we have to see more.

Copyright 2015 Annemarie Shrouder
Speaker, Author and Facilitator on issues of Diversity & Inclusion

Radio Show Host – Creating Families

A new look at a daily activity

27 Aug

On my run yesterday, I had to cross a busy street.
This isn’t unusual.
But yesterday I noticed a new button at the crosswalk.
IMG_4361 It’s likely not new, but it’s the first time I noticed it.
And I noticed it, because it beeped when I pressed it.

The beep caused me to pause. If I had a visual impairment, the beep would let me know that the button had engaged and the lights above the cross walk were flashing. What happens when there is no beep?!

Suddenly I had a whole new perspective on crossing the street.

See more.

copyright 2015 Annemarie Shrouder
Speaker | Workshop Facilitator | Consultant | Author on issues of Diversity & Inclusion
www.annemarieshrouder.com (new website!)

What Difference Can a Black Police Chief make in Toronto?

22 Apr

So we have a Black Police Chief in Toronto.
I want to cheer.
But my inner voice is saying “not so fast…”.

Here’s why:
Let’s consider the assumptions I am (and many people likely are likely) making based on skin colour and the expectations that these create.
We might assume that since Mark Saunders is Black, that racial profiling will end, that we will see less and less young Black men targeted, arrested, incarcerated or dead. That’s just one assumption, but I’m going to stop there.

That assumption is based solely on skin colour. It assumes a shared experience, a shared understanding of (and outrage at) the issues inherent in this problem. It assumes the shared perspective that this is discrimination, and that it is systemic.

The problem is that unconscious bias reigns.
It seeps into our systems and informs what we learn and don’t learn, how people are trained, treated and therefore how we see the world (as well as actions and people). The presence and pervasiveness of unconscious bias means that, even though Mark Saunders is Black, even though he was once a Black youth, he may not see racial profiling as such, may not see a problem, may not examine the system, may not fight for change.

Not because he is a bad person you understand, but because he doesn’t see it. 

The challenge is that our assumptions, based on our perspectives, may make his not seeing it unimaginable. We may not understand how this is possible. We may then assume it means he doesn’t care. And then we may be even harder on him that had he been white, because he “should get it”. We may be sorely disappointed.

Unconscious bias affects us all. It even impacts our feelings towards or away from groups that we belong to.
It’s not an excuse for inaction, but it’s a sad reality.

We can hope that in this case, skin colour will mean a shared understanding and a willingness to fight for justice and to create change for the Black communities in Toronto.
But sadly, we can’t expect it.

See more.

Copyright 2015 Annemarie Shrouder
Speaker, Facilitator and Writer on issues of Diversity & Inclusion.

What gets us into trouble…

11 Feb

On the weekend I was reminded of a great quote by Mark Twain:
“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

Although I would argue that what we don’t know can get us into trouble, the second half is particularly insightful when talking about diversity and inclusion.

Think about it:
What do we think we know for sure about people who are “not like us” that we then use as truth to interpret and judge their behaviour – and to determine our behaviour, decisions and language towards them?

“What we know for sure that just ain’t so” is about unconscious bias.
And the tricky thing about unconscious bias is the unconscious part.
Notice Mark Twain didn’t say it’s what you think you know for sure that just ain’t so, he said it’s what you KNOW for sure.
Sadly, if we know it for sure, we’re not likely to check to see if we are correct.

What do you “know for sure” about someone in your office, gym, class, neighbourhood, family, household, etc. And how might it be getting you into trouble?

See more

copyright 2015 Annemarie Shrouder
Speaker and Facilitator on issues of Diversity and Inclusion.

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