Trying To Get Rid of My Bias

Last week, I wrote about how the challenges of this class extend far beyond anything that can be explained on a syllabus, and this week I suppose is more of the same. However, what I’ve been struggling with this week, or rather the past couple of weeks, is the comment Jordan had heard and brought up in class. The specific comment, which I believe she said was made by a fellow student in another one of her classes was something along the lines of “All New Yorkers have the right to hate Arabs because of September eleventh.”

When Jordan first reiterated the comment to us I was quite taken aback and found myself unable to contribute to the ensuing discussion that was rather brief but felt like an eternity. Before I could even think, the answer “yes” popped into my head, which shocked me even more than the comment itself. How could this idea, which was essentially one of a racism pass, be OK with me? I found myself wondering how I could have such an insensitive reaction after being exposed to everything we have discussed thus far in class and after having the experiences of multicultural psychology, social psychology, a class in African American studies, and working on a research project exploring the own race bias. If nothing else, I was able to take solace in the fact that I was disturbed by my reaction and was making an effort to understand it.

However, even as I’m writing this, I am finding the task of ignoring the emotions that come flooding back when I recall my own experience on one of the most defining days in American history to be utterly impossible. I live in northern New Jersey, about a twenty minute drive from where the towers used to stand and many people in my community were directly affected by the attacks. Initially our community breathed a collective sigh of relief at the massive gathering at our church on that day, as we thought that only five people had been lost. By no stretch of the imagination was this good news, but compared to the amount of people in our town who worked in towers and around them, it was relatively small. In the weeks following, however, we were all paralyzed by fear as it seemed that everyday we were getting news of more people who never came home. The final number was a staggering twenty people. The impact of this event on our town was so devastating and I can honestly say that trying to extinguish this bias is going to be an extremely difficult task but one that I do feel up to and one that I feel is worth working through.

3 thoughts on “Trying To Get Rid of My Bias”

  1. I think that we can all understand why people from New York and New Jersey who knew as many people as you did, Keith, who were killed that day would have developed a bias against Muslims. And I can also understand your feeling ashamed in having that bias because rationally we know that the Muslim community on the whole is not to blame for 9/11. I think the best thing you can do if you want to try to get over that bias is to expose yourself to positive aspects of Muslim culure and Muslims you may know. Hopefully, educated people like you who were affected so personally by 9/11 can actively try to let your idea of Muslims incoporate more positive aspects than those associated with 9/11. I think this is a way to move forward and grieve those lost on that day without feeling like it caused you to hold racist ideologies that you are not comfortable with. The only way to start minimizing how common this racism is is for educated, well-intentioned people like us to set an example.

  2. Very moving comment, and I agree completely I was also very effected by the attacks and live in a town right outside the city and this comment brought up a lot of the same feelings you have. Many people were lost in my town and I find it hard to extinguish the bias myself. I am very ashamed of it, but I think you bring up an important point that it is hard but it is defiantly worth the effort to do so and fight this bias. Great reflection!

  3. I’m in tears reading your post. I want to comment yet at the same time, I dont know how to. In an attempt to putting myself in your shoes and trying to feel the emotional battle that you are experiencing, I feel utterly confused. I cant see what is right. On one hand, I feel the anger and loss that your community must have and probably still does feel, and how this fuels a racist and discriminatory fire. On the other hand, there is the guilt of this fire burning. The feeling of wanting to put it out, combatting with the fear of getting burnt. I am proud to have peers such as yourself, that through it all you still come to the conclusion of forgiveness and progression in overcoming personal biases.

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