Let’s be honest with ourselves – we all have personal biases! You are just deceiving yourself when you think that you don’t filter information, news, relationships, or politics through a personal bias. You are not deceiving anyone else – just yourself! Sure, those who don’t know your opinion or your background, may not pick up on your bias immediately – but it never takes long for someone who is watching and paying attention to pick up on your biases.
I am biased against those who refuse to listen or work. I am biased toward authority and against those who are consumers of society, people, and life. I am biased toward scripture and reason, and I am biased against emotionalism and eastern thought. I am biased toward my family and against those I don’t know. I am biased against people who smell bad and biased toward those who seem put together.
I am biased.
I have so many biases that as I was listing those above, I kept thinking of other things that I am biased toward or against and just decided to stop. However, the sooner that I can identify my own biases, the sooner I can get to listening to other people, issues, or even their biases. Once I can identify your bias, (preferably by your own admission), then I can filter through the words and actions and get to the heart of the matter.
Full confession: I get my news from many different news sources – especially those that have a stated bias. This way I can filter the information through their stated bias and find some semblance of the truth. I find myself not trusting any news source that claims to be unbiased. If you are only getting your news from one source, ask yourself why you choose to surround yourself with those with the same bias? Sadly, the algorithm of my newsfeed continues to give me news that is consistent with my personal biases! So, I must intentionally click on articles that I know I disagree with in order to continue to be confronted with my biases.
It is natural to gravitate toward those who look like you, talk like you, and think like you. We love to surround ourselves with those who share our same biases. Thus, local expressions of the body of Christ end up looking like monocultural, monolingual, and monogenerational expressions of Christ. Is this an accurate reflection of the Kingdom of God? I don’t think so.
Diversity is a high value of the Kingdom of God. We need to understand our biases if we want to engage in real conversation, real community, and real church. Take some time to be quiet with yourself and identify 5-10 biases you have. How do these biases shape your interpretation of Scripture? How do those biases effect and affect your relationship with God as your Father? How do those biases determine your layers of community?
We are all the product of our circumstances and experiences. These shape our biases – some of which are valid and some of which are ridiculous. Let us be honest about why we have racial biases and then take those biases to Jesus and kill the hostility between the races. Let’s be honest about our institutional biases toward or against those around us and deal with the core issues.
WARNING: The following is just my story as it relates to racial and institutional bias. Read if you like, but it is just my story!
I grew up with two conflicting biases. I was biased against police – Ecuadorian police are not known for their personal ethics. I grew up thinking American police were above reproach and could be trusted to treat all people ethically and with respect regardless of their skin tone, language, or even nationality.
Ecuador is one of the most racist places I have ever lived. Very little of the racism was directed toward me because they were not sure what category to put me in. But my dad spent two weeks in and Ecuadorian jail because he was American. My sister was ostracized and poked at because she had blond hair and blue eyes. I saw the indigenous peoples mocked, ridiculed, and isolated because of systemic racism.
I also lived in Puerto Rico, Ohio, California, Georgia, Colorado, and Alabama. I went to 2 schools in Alabama that had been through forced desegregation in the memory of the principals and teachers. And though the schools were officially desegregated – this was not true in the gym. I had my nose broken because I was perceived as the white kid trying to play basketball.
I didn’t know that I wasn’t perceived as a white man until 9/11. The last 19 years have taught me a great deal about profiling and institutional bias against certain people groups. I have watched the police force become more forceful and militaristic. I have been removed from my vehicle in what should have been routine traffic stops. I have been stopped for looking at a police officer “in a threatening manner.” I have come to expect special attention from the TSA agent or gate agent every time I get on an airplane. On Southwest, people would rather sit in a middle seat than in my row – I’m perfectly fine with that!!
Sure, I could shave my beard, spend less time in the sun, grow a combover, and wear glasses. But, I shouldn’t have to! Due to this, I have developed some new biases.
I have come to believe that racial profiling makes the TSA agent’s job easier. I believe that police think that brown and black people are out to get them. I know that history books teach us that white Europeans believed that they had a divine right or manifest destiny to possess these United States. I understand that it was Semitic people, (specifically Muslims), who attacked us on 9/11. I also understand that our police force is afraid for their lives at every traffic stop – I just don’t understand why they need to make me sit on the hood of their car or in their car while they ask my passengers questions about me. I don’t understand why I am supposed to be fearful of the police when I have done nothing wrong – my experiences have taught me otherwise.
Listen to the stories of those who don’t look like the predominant race. Listen to the biases that shape the way others view the world. Listen to how those who don’t look or sound like you interpret various stories and texts from the Bible. This process of listening will give you a better understanding of the world, yourself, and maybe even God.
Thanks for reading my story and listening to just a few of my biases.