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.

I have a “friend” I have 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. .

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

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

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
More about this FLEX plan at this link.
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.

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an ornate shrine in Thailand
Me visiting Thailand
Dr. Aletha

This post was featured April 2, 2021.

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