Eliminating bias is not possible; understanding and acknowledging the bias that lives within all of us is. I’ll be honest, this post is an uncomfortable one to write. Even I, with my “objectivity” in being removed from the moral binary, find it uncomfortable to give name to the biases that live within my own head – no matter the reasons that they exist.
I was raised in a close-minded and horrific family. Even now, twenty-nine years after my birth, I am subject to their uneducated drivel when I visit. They are ardent racists and bigots of the highest order. This post is uncomfortable to write because their attempts in indoctrinating me have, of course, succeeded to some extent. The “lessons” we are taught as children become one with our psyches no matter how educated or strong we may be. Those latent words and actions by our caregivers become one with us, no matter how hard we resist. Now, that said, the intellectual and open-minded may be able to counter on a conscious level those messages, but the subconscious will always retain them to some extent. Automatic and unwanted thoughts of bigotry are present in my own mind and – being the ardent intellectual that I am – the best I can do is to make sure that thought does not become action. In other words, I can ensure that I treat people fairly as best that I can but the unwanted messages of my parents during my formative years will always remain. However, I must admit that the damage has been done: I am a racist and a bigot even though I would prefer not to be. My upbringing and the world around me demand my own failings on this front.
Bigotry and racism are institutionalized in most places in the world. Referring solely to the country I live in, we see this in our prisons, our civil institutions, our government institutions, even the academic institutions that we claim are outside of the degenerate thoughts we all have. The point that I wish to make is that none of us are free from biases. Everyone is biased against someone. Maybe our upbringings and the countries we live in have limited this to race. Maybe the religious institutions we belong to have limited this to sexual orientation and gender identity. The fact of the matter is that we all are bigots. It is then our responsibility to identify those groups we are biased against and to ensure that our internal biases do not become outward actions. I rarely use bold; this point is important. I don’t believe that it is realistic or possible to eliminate our internally held biases, though I suspect we could all make sure that our internal biases are not spread with the same intensity to others (via childrearing, social interaction, etc.) by policing ourselves to, once again, ensure that our internal biases do not become external forces.
Of course, there is a psychological spin on my message here. I specifically want to focus on the effect that our internal biases have on the treatment of those who suffer from mental illness. Think of the mental health professionals that refuse to treat schizophrenics or antisocial individuals because “they are lost causes.” Imagine the masses demanding that Bipolar individuals be kept out of relationships and the workforce. What of the disgust one holds toward the Borderline with her cuts as well as her black and white thinking? Of course, my focus is on the struggles antisocials face, and here we hold a unique dilemma regarding the biases of others. I would be lying if I said that antisocial individuals are not frequently harmful to others. However, does that mean that the bias toward the antisocial is justified? This is a question that I cannot answer outside of my own internal biases.
So then what can we do? Our internal biases wish to bubble to the top no matter how tempered we are. The worldly and intellectual person may heed my words and attempt to ensure that the internal does not surface into the external, but how is that accomplished and does that mean that some groups are let off the hook for the stigma that they “deserve?” Remember, many wish that antisocials – especially psychopaths – could be identified early and removed from the herd. The approach that I take is simple in concept but difficult in execution. Treat individuals as individuals no matter what sub-demographic they belong to. It is reasonable, and fair, to write a person off as persona non grata if they have directly given reason for such. Their color of skin, sexual orientation, religion, neurological structure, or any other implicit demographic is not a good enough reason to do so otherwise.