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How to overcome our biases? Walk boldly toward them (TED talk by Vernā Myers)

Author: Vernā Myers

Our biases can be dangerous, even deadly — as we've seen in the cases of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner, in Staten Island, New York. Diversity advocate Vernā Myers looks closely at some of the subconscious attitudes we hold toward out-groups. She makes a plea to all people: Acknowledge your biases. Then move toward, not away from, the groups that make you uncomfortable. In a funny, impassioned, important talk, she shows us how.

This talk was presented to a local audience in November 2014 at TEDxBeaconStreet, an independent event. TED editors featured it among our selections on the home page.



Okay, so that's number one: number two, what I'm going to say is move toward young black men instead of away from them. It's not the hardest thing to do, but it's also one of these things where you have to be conscious and intentional about it. You know, I was in a Wall Street area one time several years ago when I was with a colleague of mine, and she's really wonderful and she does diversity work with me and she's a woman of color, she's Korean. And we were outside, it was late at night, and we were sort of wondering where we were going, we were lost. And I saw this person across the street, and I was thinking, "Oh great, black guy." I was going toward him without even thinking about it. And she was like, "Oh, that's interesting." The guy across the street, he was a black guy. I think black guys generally know where they're going. I don't know why exactly I think that, but that's what I think. So she was saying, "Oh, you were going, 'Yay, a black guy'?" She said, "I was going, 'Ooh, a black guy.'" Other direction. Same need, same guy, same clothes, same time, same street, different reaction. And she said, "I feel so bad. I'm a diversity consultant. I did the black guy thing. I'm a woman of color. Oh my God!" And I said, "You know what? Please. We really need to relax about this." I mean, you've got to realize I go way back with black guys. (Laughter) My dad is a black guy. You see what I'm saying? I've got a 6'5" black guy son. I was married to a black guy. My black guy thing is so wide and so deep that I can pretty much sort and figure out who that black guy is, and he was my black guy. He said, "Yes, ladies, I know where you're going. I'll take you there."


So this last thing is going to be harder, and I know it, but I'm just going to put it out there anyway. When we see something, we have to have the courage to say something, even to the people we love. You know, it's holidays and it's going to be a time when we're sitting around the table and having a good time. Many of us, anyways, will be in holidays, and you've got to listen to the conversations around the table. You start to say things like, "Grandma's a bigot." (Laughter) "Uncle Joe is racist." And you know, we love Grandma and we love Uncle Joe. We do. We know they're good people, but what they're saying is wrong. And we need to be able to say something, because you know who else is at the table? The children are at the table. And we wonder why these biases don't die, and move from generation to generation? Because we're not saying anything. We've got to be willing to say, "Grandma, we don't call people that anymore." "Uncle Joe, it isn't true that he deserved that. No one deserves that." And we've got to be willing to not shelter our children from the ugliness of racism when black parents don't have the luxury to do so, especially those who have young black sons. We've got to take our lovely darlings, our future, and we've got to tell them we have an amazing country with incredible ideals, we have worked incredibly hard, and we have made some progress, but we are not done. We still have in us this old stuff about superiority and it is causing us to embed those further into our institutions and our society and generations, and it is making for despair and disparities and a devastating devaluing of young black men. We still struggle, you have to tell them, with seeing both the color and the character of young black men, but that you, and you expect them, to be part of the forces of change in this society that will stand against injustice and is willing, above all other things, to make a society where young black men can be seen for all of who they are.



DMU Timestamp: August 22, 2017 13:15

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