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Unconscious Bias

Unconscious Bias or it’s all about perspective....


Did you manage to catch Antony Sher on Radio 4 reading from his book – ‘Year of the Fat Knight’, which was Radio 4’s Book of the Week?  I always find it fascinating to hear someone’s diary notes which allows an insight into their lives and how they see things.

It became all the more interesting when he told of his encounter with a woman when he was in New York.  She heard he was to play Falstaff and was aghast, saying ‘No, no, no ....I just don’t see you as Falstaff’ (or words to that effect).  Falstaff is known to be a very round, ‘larger than life’ character ....Antony Sher is not very round and is said to be quite shy.

It wasn’t the telling of her reaction that caught my attention but listening to Antony Sher muse on how some people think it is ok to challenge an actor on their roles but it would never happen to a lawyer, doctor or other professional.

Let me include you on a different perspective....this often happens to women and Black and Asian Minority Ethnic Groups or people of colour.  I can recall a time when a friend, who was a social worker, was in court with a client and the judge said he would not start the process until the accused had his social worker present – my friend, a Black woman, didn’t look like a social worker / professional representative.  The judge apologised profusely but this is an excellent example of unconscious bias and how it can impact on our actions / reactions.

Interestingly later that week I attended a debate arranged by the Royal Shakespeare Company at Stratford Upon Avon to discuss how diversity is recognised and valued in the arts.  This particular debate was called ‘Are the arts male, pale and stale?’.

They are challenging themselves about how they embrace diversity and how this is shown in their productions.  The panel shared their feelings of frustration and hopes and aspirations for the future. 

They had obviously started the process and had been creative.  However, sadly, there had been opportunities which may have seemed like a dead-end and they hadn’t pursued it.

I left with the question – where and when do you stop trying to find ways to further equality and inclusion?  That then grew to – where and when do you stop trying to find ways to reach your goals.  My answer is....never!  By all means, rest and re-group, but get back out there. 

Look at.....

Sylvester Stallone, who steadfastly refused to sell the script for Rocky without his place in the title role - despite having no money and being offered substantial amounts for the script.

Or , thinking about that ‘light bulb’  moment,  how about Thomas Edison, who is quoted as saying  “I have not failed.  I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”.

.....it’s all about perspective....our reaction...our responsibility.