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Wallingford library hosts discussion on unconscious bias

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WALLINGFORD — The Wallingford Public Library hosted a community conversation Tuesday evening on tackling unconscious bias.

The conversation took place inside the library’s community room and was organized by Lead Farrell, head of adult programming and community service at the library, and Ruby Hsu, a Wallingford educator who helped facilitate the discussion. 

Unconscious or implicit bias refers to attitudes, prejudices and judgments that an individual unconsciously holds about people or groups. One is either unaware of the feelings or are unable to pinpoint where they come from.

“We often have biases related to racial groups, including our own. While many unconscious biases are related to ethnicity, it is possible to have biases based on sexual orientation, education or gender,” Farrell said.

Unconscious bias can also include but are not limited to religion, politics, disability, social class, intelligence, weight, and age.

According to Farrell, bias is ingrained in everyone, but it’s their responsibility to address it. “Bias can affect school or work performance,” she added. 

During the discussion, tips on overcoming implicit bias were given to the group. 

“The first step is accepting that we all have [implicit bias],” Farrell said. “Then we need to acknowledge that and reflect.”

In addition, other tips are to be mindful and acquire cultural knowledge and skills.  

“When something makes you uncomfortable, instead of ignoring it, learn about it in order to overcome that bias,” Hsu said. Then, adapt the practice in the real world. Lastly, Hsu and Farrell recommended that individuals take the Implicit Association Test (IAT) which is conducted by Harvard University and available at https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/takeatest.html.

The test is one of the tools provided by Project Implicit, which is a nonprofit organization and international collaborative of researchers who are interested in implicit social cognition, explains their website. One of their missions is challenging organizational and institutional disparities through data-driven research and education.

Participants in the discussion were encouraged to be vulnerable and share their unconscious biases and how they affect them in their everyday life. Many shared how they were raised with unconscious bias.

“In order to have this discussion, we knew we had to lead by example,” Hsu said. “This meant we had to start the discussion by opening up with our own implicit biases.”

“We find that the community tends to be a safe space for the community,” Farrell said. “I’m honored that the community felt safe enough to be vulnerable and share their thoughts.”

The library plans on having conversations about race every other month. The next discussion is planned for March. To attend the next event, look for the announcement on the library’s website: https://wallingfordlibrary.org/ 


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