Social injustice and bias

Early on in the class, I started out with a perspective that poverty is the center of injustice because it seems to have the most impact. Living in poverty makes every single day a struggle and it can impact anyone.  I was interested to hear opinions on how poverty was by poor choices or out of people’s control and certainly both are true.  I read examples where the choices got someone on a path that ended in poverty, but second chances are limited. Getting out is a lot tougher than getting in. There is privilege in having money, and it goes beyond just being able to meet basic needs.

As I read other material and thought about other injustices, I now am of the opinion that there is no master injustice.  Maybe it’s my personality, but now realizing how bias and stereotyping takes us on a path of not just injustice but poor decision making as leaders because we don’t use people’s skills and ideas effectively. I no longer think I can rank one injustice over another.  We all have bias, and bias by others for and against us as well. To maximize our potential both in business and in our personal lives, we have to come to terms with those biases to reduce their impacts on our decision-making.

So how do you feel about first impressions? Every now and then, I run into people who declare that they are pretty good judges of people- that they can measure someone up pretty quickly. More than ever, this concerns me.  If first impressions are often based on stereotypes, how accurate can they be? We are bound to get it right sometimes, but how likely is it first impressions are based on biases developed by other experiences that don’t give people a fair chance. That’s not to say we shouldn’t protect ourselves using our instincts, but I would say reserving judgment for longer term information is more just.


KKK Rally in Charlottesville, July 8th

I did not attend the rally or protest, just followed the proceedings.  Contemplating on what happened, I struggled to figure out what there was to learn from what happened, but here are my thoughts.

We all learned that the protesters exceeded the KKK in numbers and in passion. The KKK group arrived and with police protection rallied for about 40 minutes, got in their cars and left. The protesters ultimately were dispersed by the police using teargas.  I guess the KKK who announced they would be carrying weapons were less dangerous than the crowd opposed to the hate group. I wonder if the KKK will be back, this group from NC, or they got a message. Did they get any message, or only more resolved that their southern heritage was being eliminated by the masses?

The more I thought about this rally, the more I wonder why a hate group exists trying to live in what their ancestors from the 1800s thought was glory? Is there some oppression they are fighting now we don’t see or is it a grasp for former glory, long past?  I actually understand the interest in reenacting, which we see a great deal of in the Fredericksburg area. Those groups do take a weekend and relive something of interest to them, and understanding history is important. I find that re-enactors in general are interested either in the military strategy, but not really the issues, or they are open to discussing the issues of the time, for what they were in the 1860s.

The KKK is something very different to me. They knowingly represent oppression and hate. They announced they would be carrying guns at their rally, not exactly a veiled threat to those who disagree.  It’s an organization still attempting to gain power purely because of race. There is no attempt to understand or remember the past, it is a current battle for them.  Sadly, the battle is one I would like to be of the past, but rallies like the KKK’s, remind me that we have not even gotten past their level of racism.

I wonder are KKK groups made up entirely of people whose parents were members and continued the tradition? Or, are there new members who see value in the KKK? Do they actually believe they are fighting white oppression? If their group disbanded, would they find another organization to fight their oppression with, or would they move on to productive lives without the group mentality to support their fears?

The KKK is something of an oddity because they are secretive and I don’t give them a second thought until they have a rally in our state. Are they more or less dangerous than the racial bias in everyday life?  If we want to build a wall to keep a race of people out, or block people of certain religions from entering out country, aren’t those biases more impactful and dangerous then the KKK?

In these respects, the KKK seems just a weak, sad group.  Weak in their impact to the world, weak in their need to announce carrying weapons to intimidate others, and sad and weak in their thinking, as they struggle to maintain a racial power structure from the 1860s. Are they a threat? It hardly seems the group is, but as individuals, their biases carried out in their daily lives are.

Awareness of their individual biases, and ours, is the key to improving our decision making and effecting real change so we aren’t fighting ideas of the 1860s.



On This is an Uprising

This book took me to a lot of different places, but in the end, I’m not sure where I’ve been. The author gets tremendous credit for doing thorough research on different uprisings and protest movements, detailing the strategy and comparing the different approaches. As a reader, I am more likely to read some of the other sources listed than to use the details provided to change the world in some way.  I’m not sure I would recommend this to someone as a guide to starting change.

While the organizing part has some strategy behind it, my sense is it goes the way the leader(s) are comfortable with, and is dictated at least in part by the defined target issue. Leaders choosing a broad or narrow target set the tone to a large degree in how to pursue it. Very similar to business problem solving methodologies.  The organizing strategies impact the actions taken, and I see the actions taken as being the success or failure of the uprising. For example, if boycotting businesses is the action that causes the most pain for the target, an organization set up to maximize those efforts is more likely to be successful.

Being in a business program, in a Capitalist country, I see business boycotting as the single most powerful tool in use today in changing the world, but the issue has to be one with a business connection.  Marches seem to draw attention, and maybe some disruption for the day, but I don’t see where they change the course of events.  Particularly with our government, factions seem to take the path that the people don’t actually know what’s good for them and ignore the message.  Candidates from both parties have learned election strategy is more important than popular votes, leaving actual representation of the people to local officials at best.

Do uprisings still matter? I see less and less power in the hands of the people. The people’s power seems to be purchasing power, and little else.  Awareness of issues is important, but I don’t see the impact on improving the issues. Many people have started the discussion that we may have taken steps backward on gender, race, and religious issues with our current President.  Certainly awareness was communicated on the campaign trail of his biases. Whether he is successful overall in his agenda, he does send messages (no Twitter pun intended) making biases against those groups more acceptable than ever.  Will we as a country take his lead and make it acceptable for all of us to make the same biased comments and policies he does in our work and social lives? For me this is a much more important question.

More protests and more quickly organized protests have taken place this years than with any new President. Will these protests have an impact? I haven’t seen it yet. The implementation of his ideas and policies continues unobstructed except by his own party, who aren’t the protesters as far as I can see.

Effective uprisings in the U.S. need to focus on business impacts. At some those pressures are too great to ignore, even for government.

Changing the world through civil disobedience

Through this class I have struggled with the idea that civil disobedience is still relevant. Even as I read This is an Uprising, I compare it to the U.S. now and have a difficult time seeing where change happens as a result. The messages are powerful and relevant. I go back to Black Lives Matter and think what has really changed since that movement started. Is it really any different? Only in May, the last trial of a police officer for killing an unarmed black man in Oklahoma,ended in a not guilty finding. Of the last 15 publicized cases, only 2 have ended in conviction.

Link to NY Times article with conviction details

Changing the subject, many protests have come up since the election.  The fact that people are protesting a new president is not new, but the number of issues and how quickly protests have started is different.  All of that aside, I don’t believe it has or will make a change. As much opposition as there has been to the rules banning people from Muslim countries, it is now in effect anyway. As far as I know our government is still pursuing the same issues regardless of public opinion or protest. Unfortunately popular opinion and the needs of the people do not direct our government’s actions.

I don’t want to imply people should just be quiet and go home when they disagree. What I do question is the effectiveness of current protesting.  Is there a new way, or does it simply take years and the efforts now are directed at a payoff in 4 years?

Asking a Black Friend About White Privilege

This article, with responses by author Hutcherson, remind me of how much we can be in denial of our biases and maybe that we need to be aware of the biases that exist, even if we aren’t intentionally acting on them. The tone of the question posed by Hutcherson’s FB friend leads me to believe he felt he had conquered bias. Her response that took his post and explained how the absence of having been through her experience was what he needed to understand as white privilege was the message to me. We who have white privilege need to understand those battles we don’t have to fight does not mean they are not being fought.

We all have gifts and talents we sometimes take for granted. Maybe you are a gifted athlete, or a math comes easy to you, whatever it is, do you realize how much others have to battle just to get by without those gifts? What if the gift was the color of your skin. You never have to think about it, but it opens doors simply by being what it is. Our actions cannot stop the battles for those without those gifts, but we can make sure we don’t start anymore, and we can try and empathize with those very real battle they are fighting.

Article Link

Poverty as a social injustice

Poverty is the central issue that potentially impacts everyone, all races, genders, religions, countries, states, etc.. It’s the universal injustice and in some ways the most difficult to tackle. We can change behaviors, as difficult as it is. We can change perceptions, but getting people out of poverty is really a mountain. When we layer on the other biases, race, gender, religion that makes it harder for people to gain stable housing, gain stable employment, etc that contribute to poverty, the mountain is insurmountable on their own.

The readings about poverty for me reflect how many do not seem interested in working to improve the condition or they believe that those people affected made choices that got them into poverty.   More than the other injustices, the focus is on the fraud or possibility of fraud. Almost as if we can ignore the problem, as long as we can justify that some abuse of resources exists.  In other words, it’s okay to ignore the many in poverty as long as we can prove that the assistance is abused by some.

It’s hard not to find the opinions of those opposing assistance offensive. While I never have suffered from poverty myself, I grew up in southern Culpeper, in an area where it surrounded me. Even as a child I recognized the struggles others had, even if I didn’t fully understand the costs of living or the underlying issues that caused poverty, I recognized that there were have-nots who were stuck in it and some of the struggle they went through.

Any discussion of poverty makes me wonder why the U.S. commits some many resources to other countries when we are not taking care of our own.  This is not to imply that other countries do not need and require assistance but we have many in need all over the U.S. who are falling through the cracks and living in conditions we would not find acceptable for ourselves. It seems like reinvesting in poverty in the US would be much more economically stimulating than sending funds to other countries.

I don’t understand the support for the Republican party by the poor. During the time leading up to this past election, I, like many observed the Trump signs in many of the poorest neighborhoods in the adjoining states. It has been explained to me that they do not want handouts, they want jobs, and Trump promised that. That I understand, however, those in poverty should know better than anyone that a political party did not get them into poverty and will not get them out. At best, the party can create policies and funding to support them in their time of need.

Much of what drives poverty is clear. Every discussion of poverty involves the same topics: drug abuse, healthcare, and thanks to Matthew Desmond, rent. When I think about it, the U.S. is actually quite poor at dealing with all three of these issues. News of overdoses seems to continue to grow and treatment options are very limited. We are behind many other developed countries in availability of healthcare and it costs more. Neither political party has good solutions.  Desmond clearly identified how poorly our programs of assistance with housing are at building steps out of poverty.

Are we bad at social programs because we deny these issues, or because we have developed a such a distaste for the word socialism that we would rather bypass improvement of social service and ignore the needs of Americans rather than being compared to a socialist country?



Gender Bias

As far as the biases we are investigating in class, gender bias seems to be the most ingrained in our thoughts and actions. I don’t think people acquire gender biases over time, they probably model after others growing up.  Being unconscious, gender bias makes it more challenging to address and maybe more likely to be overlooked or not taken as a serious issue.

The assignments had the common theme for me of gaining awareness of those actions, micro-aggressions or some other behavior, that treats women as less than equals so that they can be changed.  These may be the most difficult of all to change because they do seem to be predominantly learned from our environments at younger ages. I don’t see people becoming more gender biased as they get older. There are environments, call them locker room environments that allow gender biased language and actions to become normal. Its every leader’s responsibility to make sure they don’t allow that to become part of their organization’s culture.

There is another theme to some of the readings and that is how women who are more assertive or aggressive are viewed negatively and men with the same behaviors are viewed positively. This is a more interesting discussion for me. I believe the studies but wonder how the studies themselves bias us.  The data helps us solve problems and be aware, but it isn’t always true. Sometimes men who are more aggressive are simply viewed as angry and poor leaders and are overlooked for promotions due to their inability to manage them. Some aggressive/assertive women do make it to the top. We should make sure our bias isn’t affecting our decisions, but the generalizations about how men and women are perceived differently can be as bad as the bias if we aren’t careful and aware. If we can treat each person as an individual, regardless of their gender, we should be able to best utilize their skills for the organization, but also avoid gender bias.

Equal but different treatment is always a challenge but one we have to figure out.


Changing the World..

From Bryan Stevenson:

1.Just being proximate can change somebody’s life-BS

2. Proximity

3. Change the narrative

4. Hopeful

5. Do uncomfortable things

6. Get broken, we are all broken who do justice


The overarching message in this for me is, get close and get involved.  Dare to take part in a process that is more difficult than you think you can handle or change. Always try to change the story, where you think the story is not just.

What Does Real Leadership Require?

The short article showing that the 3 founders of the Black Lives Matter movement were named among the world’s greatest leaders for 2016, tells me that there is a group of people who recognize the importance of the movement and the leadership qualities of the 3 who launched and developed it. The fact that is has been growing since 2013 and continues to be significant is impressive.  The issues they are dealing with clearly have not decreased and at times it seems like the awareness of the issues remains poor in America. I hope that they continue on their efforts and true improvement can happen.

Article Link

Facts About the World

Interesting Facebook video. I think for me, I tend towards international news and the sense of America’s place in the world comes through there. When I watch BBC or France 24 news, it’s very clear that Americans are a small piece of the world population. The culture here, although there are similarities in other countries and we certainly influence world culture, we are not all there is.

Article Link