In the 90s, Britpop, as it was then known, to me was a bit like a media orchestrated contest between music bands. There was always someone up against another one. Sometimes the artists themselves would join in, a declaration here and there, the fans go wild. If you liked Blur, as I did, then you didn’t really like Oasis. It didn’t really matter how good or bad their music were, you just kept to your bias. It’s the same thing in popular sport, you have your team, your favourite player, etc, they can do no wrong. But everyone else sucks. Deeply ingrained bias is like that, it goes with passion and dedication for a lot of people.
When facing bias, as we do every day, people easily throw around declarations. Companies create diversity groups, a lot of good intentions and advocacy is vowed. However, how effective can such measures be when the bias is deeply ingrained? Wouldn’t it be more useful to try and grasp the deeper motivation and origins of such motivations? If we were to ignore the deeper motivations, however naive, wouldn’t that amount to hand waving, to lip service?
I contend that the really deep biases are close to second nature to someone. It’s nearly impossible to root that out, because people don’t really change. Instead of doing hand wavy stuff, it might be better to first acknowledge the impossibility of the task, then seek avenues that might appeal to people selfishness, to get better outcomes.
Can highly publicised diversity efforts yield any seriously durable results? I’m not sure, any high profile scheme can be gambled, appearances kept and all. Should the publicity side be dampened a bit, in favour of more personable approach? I think probably.
Returning to the opening paragraph, my own bias towards Blur never really subsided, it just took different forms over time. Yes, I did enjoy a couple of songs by Oasis, but I always perceived Blur to be superior artistically. That’s the kind of bias I am talking about. You can’t take that out of people with any form of reasoning. My example is obviously light-hearted, not worth any second thought. However, for serious and morally reprehensible situations, genuine change can not come about through publicity stunts or media shaming. That would be like suggesting better house rules as a way of improving people conduct. If enforcement could suffice then the society would have promptly eradicated ‘bad behaviours’ since humans settled in groups.
Wether it’s about technology, people, organisations, there are always biases at play. We should strive to discover them first, then try to understand where they are coming from, only then can we begin to address them when necessary. If we come across the deeply ingrained variants, it would be futile to resort to publicity or other shaming means, to root them out.