Many years ago, I was a flight attendant serving passengers in first class on the way to France. A female passenger asked for a Bloody Mary. I fixed the set-up of two glasses of ice, a can of bloody Mary mix, two bottles of vodka and the obligatory two bags of peanuts. As I set the tray down in front of her she said pretty boldly, “Open that.” I received her command like an order and could tell by the gentleman sitting next to her that he felt the same. Nonetheless, I reached over, picked up the can and the vodka, opened both and set them down just a little harder than I normally would have, displaying that I wasn’t happy with how she had addressed me. Then, as I prepared the gentleman’s drink, I could see that the woman could not use her hands. I couldn’t fight the tears and had to run to the bathroom to cry quietly. When I came back out, she said, “It’s okay.”
What a humbling and monumental moment for me. I had let my assumptions lead me down “bias drive.” I reacted negatively instead of being nice and I was totally wrong. It had nothing to do with race and it was all about her disability. This interaction changed my life, my lens and eventually led me to this work in diversity and inclusion.
The PGA of America is dedicated to the education and training of its 28,000 members and I had the pleasure to do a presentation on the “Impact of Bias” where I shared this story out west. It was heart warming to hear others open up and share their stories on bias and how it changed their perspective. Somehow the admission of our biases brought us together as we admitted that what we thought actually wasn’t true.
Bias is spread equally among us as we all have bias, no matter our color, sexual orientation, ability, gender, or age. Bias can be positive or negative, but is often seen as negative. The ability to recognize when and how we make decisions (often in a split second- based on what we see, hear, or feel) can be difficult unless you really practice being reflective. The more you practice, the easier it becomes. Allow yourself to stop, assess the moment, and ask yourself some key questions starting with ‘why’. Think about something that you have a bias for or against and then ask yourself what helped you form this bias. Soon you will feel comfortable enough to ask others “why.” Think about something that you have a bias for or against and then ask yourself what helped you form this bias. Soon you will feel comfortable enough to ask others “why” and before you know it, you will have started to build a relationship with someone new, someone outside the spectrum of your circle.
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