Wringing Out Bias
"...Finally, I think it’s going to be important for all of us to do some soul-searching. You know, there has been talk about should we convene a conversation on race. I haven’t seen that be particularly productive when politicians try to organize conversations. They end up being stilted and politicized, and folks are locked into the positions they already have. On the other hand, in families and churches and workplaces, there’s a possibility that people are a little bit more honest, and at least you ask yourself your own questions about, am I wringing as much bias out of myself as I can; am I judging people, as much as I can, based on not the color of their skin but the content of their character? That would, I think, be an appropriate exercise in the wake of this tragedy."~ President Obama, today, regarding Trayvon Martin
Today I went to teach my usual Friday class at Delaney Hall Detention Facility. I started by going around the room meeting today's students. I usually ask their names, tell them mine, and move on. I don't shake hands because we're prohibited from adjusting them. Also because, frankly, I want to keep good boundaries with the inmates. I introduced myself to four or five young black men (no handshake). The next student in the row was a white man, older than me. He told me his name and I felt myself begin to stick out my hand. Then I realized what I was doing, stopped, and moved on.
Was it because he was older? Was it because he looked me right in the eye and smiled? Was it because he seemed to want to shake hands? Was it because he was white?
Probably all of the above.
Whenever we arrive at Delaney Hall, the TV is blaring and the guys are standing around watching it. Today they had Trayvon Martin coverage on. Usually we turn the TV off right away, but today we stood with them and watched for a few minutes. Then I started class. I talked about how this world is full of horrible things, and that in a crazy world, all you can control is your own behavior. And maybe, in your yoga poses, your breath.
I don't know how it went over. And now, I'm home, trying to wring out the bias.