Challenging Your Natural Bias
Picture a typical day. You get up, have breakfast and get ready before dropping the kids
to school. Afterwards you decide to swing past your local coffee shop. Appropriately
caffeinated, you’re ready to get into whatever lies ahead – work, chores, life admin.
Fast forward to bed that night. As you pull the doona up, ready to close another chapter
before doing it all again tomorrow, you reflect on the day that’s been.
Ask yourself: how many times were you discriminated against?
For some groups, the disappointing answer is too many times. Unfortunately, discrimination is still widespread in our community and while it doesn’t always come from a negative place, the narrative that’s long been told provides an unfair bias towards minority groups.
We call little instances of unfair mistreatment Microaggression a term used for brief and commonplace daily verbal or behavioral indignities that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative attitudes toward stigmatized or culturally marginalizedgroups.
Whether they are unintentional or not, these everyday slights and comments are thought to spring from long-held prejudices and beliefs, which are demonstrated through daily verbal interactions. For minority groups, microaggressions can take many forms.
But let’s use me as an example.
I wake up.
My carer helps me get ready and while I’m eating my breakfast, I flick on the TV.
I see an advertisement warning against the dangers of speeding; the warning being if you speed, you may ruin your life by becoming disabled. Great narrative to tell people – your life is ruined if you’re living with a disability. Enter the day’s first microaggression.
I get in the car to drop Dylan to school. I carry his school bag as I wheel through the school gates. I hear another parent tell their child to go ‘help the man in the wheelchair with his bags’. While a nice gesture, clearly the parent doesn’t think I’m capable enough to carry my son’s bag. Microaggression number two.
In dire need of a long black, I head to my local cafe. The employees all know me there and it’s great to see friendly faces. With a busy day ahead, I decide to take my coffee to go. Another customer offers to help me with my hot cup of deliciousness to the car – very helpful actually, you don’t want that pouring on your lap mid wheel turn! However, he makes a comment about how great it is to see people like me ‘out there in the world, being independent’. Cheers mate, microaggression number three.
This is entirely fictionalised (although yes, I’ve had similar interactions in the past) but as you can see, even when people mean well – when their intentions are to be nice and helpful – it can still be deflating, because it reinforces the narrative we’ve all been told. That living with a disability makes you less capable, less independent, less worthy.
Hand on heart I can tell you, my life is better now than it ever was when I was able bodied. I’m happier, I have a wonderful wife and son, I run my own business. Yet from the outside, people would assume the opposite.
Importantly, my mental health is better, which is why I’m able to compartmentalise microaggressions that occur regularly in my life and move on. But others are not so lucky.
It can be incredibly draining having to question your worth based on strangers’ opinions. To constantly second guess whether you are a worthy member of the community, day after day after day. It can be one of the biggest contributors to depression and anxiety, especially if you don’t have a valuable support network around you.
So I would ask you to consider your interactions every day. Question your bias to see whether or not the narrative you believe to be true really is. Because while it may seem innocent, while your one interaction with a person may just be something small, you have no idea what the next interaction will bring...and how many after that.
On the flip side, one small positive interaction can change a person’s entire outlook on their day. And don’t we all just want to pull that doona up at night and be satisfied and content with life? I know I do.
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