Experience and Bias
I am a white female and I was raised in a religious and conservative town that has now grown to a large suburb with a lot of tech jobs. I have lived in northern Nevada and eastern Wyoming and quite a few places in Utah, and I have never left the United States. I can’t get away from my experience and where I came from, and I don’t want to, but that also comes with certain biases that I can’t get rid of. I have had a lot of privilege and opportunities in life, like scholarships and financial support and free housing. In some ways, my life has been really easy. In other ways, it’s been sort of difficult. My life is unique, and while I can try to understand others, I don’t really know what’s it like for them.
I don’t know what it is like for a lot of people out there. I can try to learn the best I can, but I don’t know what it’s like to be black or Mexican or be raised by a single parent. I don’t know what’s it’s like to be a refugee or what it’s like to be evicted from the only home I have. I don’t know what it’s like to have disability or to look different from other people. I also don’t know what it’s like to be rich.
I can’t get rid of the privilege and blessings I enjoy. I have a certain viewpoint from my experience, and it’s not necessarily right all the time.
I can say that I’m not racist or homophobic or prejudiced, but that’s not really true. I don’t want to be, but I can’t get away from my own experience. Sometimes I’m not sure what to say or do. Sometimes I think or say offensive things. I don’t mean to. I work on learning more about other people and other experiences, but I can’t ever fully understand. I can listen, though. I can learn a little bit more. I can keep working on it, but I’ll never be perfect.
Sometimes we view the world from our own viewpoint and not realize that we can only see one part of the picture in our own framework.
My DNA is very European. I come from ancestors who immigrated from places like England and Scotland and Germany and who came to the United States and settled here. They are basically are the winners of history in a way: they fought and they won. But that means there were losers too. I don’t know what parts of history were right or wrong; it just happened. And I can’t change what happened, even if it doesn’t always follow the same values people talk about today.
I’m not ever going to see the whole picture of life, but I don’t want to be the sort of person that thinks I’m right because I’m coming from my own experience. Sometimes I’m wrong. Sometimes I can’t understand why I’m wrong. But I’ll keep learning and working on it anyway.
Sometimes we think, because we are privileged and have certain opportunities, that all other people enjoy the same thing. But they don’t. Some people have it a lot harder than we do, and while we can easily judge them and determine how they should do better to fix their lives, usually we just don’t understand yet.
You can’t really understand unless you experience and live through something. So we don’t have to be competing against each other; we just have to help make room for each other and help each other out, and sometimes to ask how to do that when we don’t really know how. We can have empathy and compassion by trying to understand the best we can and realize that it will always fall a bit short.