Let’s use our differences to connect, not divide

We may not always recognize our or others’ biases but that makes them no less real. Whether unconscious- implicit or conscious-explicit, biases harm all of us by blocking communication and preventing relationships that could benefit everyone.

a stone sidewalk with overlying words-responsibility, society, freedom, liberty
updated February 18, 2022

I have a “friend” I’ve never met in person. I connected on Facebook with Dr.T.M., an emergency room physician, due to our shared love of ballroom dancing. Usually her posts are lighthearted, full of news about her family, travel, and dancing. But recently she wrote a public post that tugged at my heart.

I am a proud Asian American. I am feeling hurt and saddened right now. I have dedicated my life to serving ALL people and it’s never been for money or fame. It’s been about the opportunity to give back to the America that took me in as a refugee. To pay it forward.

The recent hate crimes are the antithesis to my very existence, the opposite of every goal in my book. I do not see any good from hate and only unintended consequences. If I can only have one wish come true it would be that we find a way to use our differences to connect with one another. That we can speak and act from a place of love, not hate.

Forever and For always, love not hate.

Mural in the Chinatown neighborhood of Chicago, IL

She of course is referring to recent acts of violence directed at Asian Americans, which isn’t new but aggravated by attitudes that blame the pandemic on them . Bigotry and bias directed toward any ethnicity isn’t new, but has become more blatant due to multiple recent events that highlight the inequities we allow to persist.

  • The pandemic has disproportionately effected persons of color.
  • Vaccination efforts have lagged in neighborhoods of color.
  • People of color “profiled” by law enforcement and other public authorities.
  • Laws and public policy which may restrict access to voting
  • Women underrepresented in the STEM fields and upper management of business.
  • The use of symbols and slogans that stigmatize and demean certain groups of people
  • Using offensive, demeaning names to characterize certain groups, and excusing it as “freedom of speech”

People who referred to the SAR-CoV-2 virus as “Chinese” perpetuated discriminatory stereotypes. But viruses don’t discriminate, neither do they recognize or respect international boundaries. They don’t carry passports or needs visas to roam the world.

Explicit bias at the Winter Olympics

Even elite athletes are not immune to discrimination, hate, and even physical attack. A recent AP story highlights bias, both explicit and implicit, Asian American women athletes face on a regular basis.

“It’s like Asian American women can’t win,” says Jeff Yang, an author and cultural critic. “Asian American female athletes, like most Asian American women in many other spaces, are seen as worthy when they can deliver … and then disposed of otherwise.”

Chloe Kim, who won the halfpipe at the Beijing and Pyeongchang Olympics, has revealed she was tormented online daily. She says she was consumed by fear that her parents could be killed whenever she heard news about another brutal assault on an Asian person.

a brick building decorated with Chinese art
art décor on a building in Chinatown Chicago

The dichotomy of the Asian American woman’s existence is not limited to Winter Olympians, though. In October, Hmong American gymnast Sunisa Lee said she was pepper sprayed by someone shouting racist slurs while driving by in a car. At the time, she was standing outside with a group of Asian American friends in Los Angeles while filming the “Dancing with the Stars” TV show.

Bias is a prejudice in favor of or against one thing, person, or group compared with another usually in a way that’s considered to be unfair.

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
children standing outside a school in Bangladesh
a school in Bangladesh, where my husband volunteered to teach computing

Implicit bias

But color or ethnicity aren’t the only factors that play into prejudice-one’s gender, age, religion, occupation, physical appearance and ability, education, income- are often used to judge a person’s worth.

Unconscious (implicit) biases are social stereotypes about certain groups of people that individuals form outside their own conscious awareness.

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Healthcare is not exempt from implicit bias, and it works both ways. Doctors and other healthcare workers may behave differently toward patients based on gender, skin color, and ethnicity in ways that can negatively impact their care.

And patients may make assumptions about their providers, assuming status based on the same characteristics; for example, assuming that females are nurses, rather than physicians; or assuming a black male is an orderly rather than a surgeon.

Vietnamese children with an American woman, blowing bubbles
a VWAM volunteer team entertaining children in Vietnam

We may not always recognize our or others’ biases but that makes them no less real. Whether unconscious- implicit or conscious-explicit, biases harm all of us by blocking communication and preventing relationships that could benefit to everyone.

And ironically enough, we can even unconsciously violate our own conscious values!
two women in Thai dress
Two of the staff at a resort in Thailand where we stayed
How can we alter our perceptions and biases?
  • Focus within
  • Learn about others
  • Engage in dialogue
  • Expand the options
a group of American and Thai healthcare workers
working with Thai healthcare professionals on a volunteer trip to Thailand (I am second from left, middle row.)

exploring the HEART of “love, not hate”

I hope you enjoyed the photos from some of my travels. And I hope this post caused you to recognize and examine your own biases-implicit and otherwise; I know I have. Perhaps you recognized ways you unintentionally perpetuate or tolerate undeserved and destructive bias.

If you enjoyed this post, please share with your social media friends, just use the sharing buttons below.

an ornate shrine in Thailand
My husband and I visited Thailand with a medical teaching team.

This post was featured April 2, 2021.

My granddaughter and I enjoyed afternoon tea and cake at a lovely Korean cafe in our town.

Dr Aletha

Author: Aletha Cress Oglesby, M.D.

As a family physician, I explore the HEART of HEALTH in my work, recreation, community, and through writing. My blog, Watercress Words, informs and inspires us to live in health. I believe we can turn our health challenges into healthy opportunities. When we do, we can share the HEART of health with our families, communities, and the world. Come explore and share with me.

10 thoughts on “Let’s use our differences to connect, not divide”

  1. Beautiful photos – and heart-felt message! The message of Jesus, “to love your neighbor as yourself” seems to be lost in many corners of our culture right now! Real love – Jesus-kind-of-love! Praying that I listen well and love well regardless of differences!


  2. Love the pictures! And you are so right. We all need to put aside our biases and start communicating with others, especially those who may be different than us. Everyone needs to be heard. And if we talk about our differences, we might find that we have more in common than we realize. Blessings to you! I’m your neighbor at #InspireMeMonday.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Aletha, there is so much division and disunity around us. It is exhausting at times. I pray that I would always be gentle, kind, and loving to all people at all times. We each have to be intentional in this effort to make change.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Joanne, thanks for sharing your perspective and your prayer. I agree it is exhausting. I found handling the disagreements over the pandemic response almost more difficult than dealing with the infection itself. Gentleness, kindness, and love always win, I believe.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Well said, thank you. It is so hard to listen to the news if it is filled with voices enjoying the controversy of division.
    We will feature your post in the next Blogger’s Pit Stop.


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