Recognizing the reality of biases

Danielle Zukowski

It’s easy to get by without venturing too far from campus. Everything we need is here – food, shelter, activities and what not. I call GV a snow globe. For a long while I didn’t see a single dog, old person, baby, homeless person, gas station. I didn’t see illiteracy, crime, poverty. I didn’t see reality. Living in sleepy Allendale, we’re a bit disconnected from the rest of the country. We have the luxury of disregarding issues many Americans face every day.

What I’m leading into is Ferguson. There is so much to say and so much that has been said, but it is an issue that needs to be addressed. It’s easy to just ignore things that don’t have direct impact on us. We might glance up from our phones to watch the news of protests on the television at Kleiner for a second, might converse with a friend, then many of us go back to eating, texting or whatever we were doing before.

But for others, that transition is not possible. It’s their life. They can’t escape the bias. Things of this nature will continue to affect them daily in varieties of discrimination.

As a white, straight, Christian, able, middle-class, native English speaking US citizen and a university student, I am privileged. This terminology causes much debate. But it exists. It just does. It doesn’t mean that I haven’t had difficulties in my life or that my opinion is worthless, it’s just something to be aware of. To reduce incidence of bias, we need to note its existence.

Everyone has some privilege or some bias that they need to be aware of. I am recognizing my own. There are many things that I never have and never will experience. I will never be the only white person in a class, my sexuality will always be assumed, there will always be a place of worship for me in my city, all buildings will be accessible to me, almost any book I want to read has been published or at minimum translated into my first language, I don’t have to worry about where my next meal will be coming from. These are just a few examples.

Due to all my identifiers, I can’t empathize with the struggles of other races, sexualities, religions, physical and mental abilities, socioeconomic backgrounds, nationalities or educational backgrounds. My perspective is limited. The only true glimpse I have into these oppressors is my gender. I merely understand the way I feel when I am made inferior due to something I was born with and can vaguely imagine what others feel. But all in all I am very privileged, narrow-minded and inexperienced.

MTV launched a Look Different campaign addressing the impact of simple yet incredibly discriminating comments that has given insight into others’ perspectives. You may be surprised by how many you have heard or that you have even said yourself.

Awareness is the first step. Now it is our personal responsibility to both speak up against bias and consider the words coming out of our own mouths. This is the Era of Diversity.