Recently, I was forced to confront and resolve my hidden biases when I participated as one of the judges in a Business Plan Competition among select students of New York City high schools. The competition was sponsored by the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) and pulled contestants from a fairly diverse group of students; an important fact on which I paused, but only after the competition was concluded and the winner announced, and on which I must pause now.
|Judging the Competition|
As far as one could divine this, the socio-economic levels varied - data as to family income were not available. So how could one tell?
One could not tell and should not need to; except by looking at mannerisms, attire, 'race', ' color', culture, discernible sense-of-entitlement and sympathies (say, whose priority was Air Jordans vis-a-vis healthy tapioca-free alternatives to bubble tea). Rounding out the criteria in this hodgepodge of distinguishing factors was any observation of those whose parents accompanied them to the competition - supposing that poorer parents would be busy heading to that first of two jobs. None of these superficialities made any real sense, nor added real value to a silly attempt to determine who was who. But, they worked as criteria to anyone anxious to check statistical boxes - meaning, if your purpose is artificial and foolish then they are fine as criteria. And so, after the competition, as I stirred my own thoughts, mostly as I planned this blog, I went on that artificial and foolish journey.
The pool of judges was also drawn from diverse backgrounds. Importantly, there was an equal spread of White, Black and Brown judges - no Asians among the Brown in this case, and by the same meaningless criteria above, different levels of financial well-being.
Diversity and Inclusion were not on my radar as I went through the rounds in the adjudication process, not even when one White judge made the off-the-cuff, but eventually ominous, remark that this reminded him of jury service. Minutes later, when the sympathies of the same White judge became clear and the deficiencies in his deliberative process in selecting a winner were on the table for all to see, I became terrified, as a Black person, of a jury of my peers with him among them; not because he is evil; not because there is anything unprepossessing about him and his character; but purely because of clear implicit biases which clouded his judgement. At first I judged him. But, when my own biases became evident to me, I could only see Nathan the profit pointing his staff at me as he must have done to King David, in the latter's self-righteousness: "You are the Man!"
|"You are the Man"|
|Making the case|
|All-female, all-White jury 😦|