Today the world watched as a killer walked into a New Zealand mosque and shot people indiscriminately while streaming the massacre on Facebook Live. A simultaneous attack was carried out at another mosque, in total killing 49 innocent worshipers from children to elderly and injuring many more. The perpetrators were fueled by the hatred, white supremacy, and extremism, rampant in our society.
This attack shook me and numerous others. My mind immediately returned to the community trauma of the Chapel Hill murders in 2015, which to me is the pinnacle of the cross-section of implicit and explicit bias.
As mentioned in my post on implicit bias, it refers to unconscious attitudes we have about certain types of people. The Chapel Hill victims were extraordinary people in every way, none of that protected them from their fate. Because although some of their accomplishments and activism may have affected the implicit biases of people they interacted with, they could not change the explicit bias of their killer.
Explicit bias is what stokes extremist groups, hate speech, and the subsequent violence. Traditionally, people control, suppress, or hide their biases if not socially acceptable. But in our modern era, we have seen a public shift towards the outward expression of prejudice against specific groups of people, based on ideology, religion, ethnicity, race, or other factors.
Bias manifests at many levels. One of the most common of which is in microaggressions; which can be the result of either implicit or explicit bias. As implied by the name, these are small actions, that could almost go unnoticed, or seem like an innocent mistake. They are intentional or unintentional slights towards someone of a marginalized group. Such as misspelling a south Asian person’s name by one letter so that it says something possibly offensive. Or moving away when a black man enters the elevator. Or speaking slowly to a woman in hijab, as if she won’t understand.
I have been told many times that I “speak English so well” even after explaining that I was born and raised in America. I have had my last name spelled as Diablo countless times, which means devil in Spanish. I have been seated in hidden away tables at restaurants. I am often stared at in public places. I have been mistaken for a nurse or a nun, while clearly presenting myself as the physician. I have been cat-called walking down the street in broad daylight dressed completely modestly. I have been told that women aren’t as good as men at math, even if they try, it’s just harder for them to catch on. And the list goes on.
Each time, I have responded differently; sometimes ignoring, sometimes explaining or educating, sometimes with humor or sarcasm. Each time, I feel more exhausted than the previous.
But I carry on. Because behind every microaggression, there is the risk of a macro-aggression if those pervasive attitudes are not called out and corrected. Even then, I often feel helpless because the voices of hatred are loud and ubiquitous. When allowed to fester and spread, those rampant ideologies lead to tragedy.
Immediately, the Tree of Life Synagogue shootings in Pittsburgh in 2018 come to mind. And before that, the shootings at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina in 2015. When the power of hate takes root, the result is often devastating violence.
Yet, today, I am discouraged. Today I want to retreat. I work hard everyday, as a human on this earth, to love others and show them the compassion and concern I want shown to me. I take risks and put myself out there to break stereotypes, push back against bias, and combat hatred. Events like the four I’ve mentioned above push us so far back.
I am processing and wondering. What must one do to establish their humanity, their right to live, to remain alive, to not be shot, murdered, slaughtered in cold blood? Do my daily words and actions contribute at all to making this world a more loving, safer, united, and connected place for all people to live? How do we process, heal, and move on?
As I realized in my post on Overnight Hearts, perhaps I need to sleep on this. Tomorrow, maybe I will be filled with hope. Tomorrow, maybe I will feel renewed to push on, to persist. Tomorrow, maybe I will sit with others, connect, share, and rejuvenate. We must do those things. We must carry on spreading the messages of justice and peace. We must continue to recognize and address bias in all forms. We must continue to combat hate. We must believe victims of micro and macroaggressions and hear their stories.
A heartfelt thank you to all those that reached out with messages of love and peace. It is every one of you, every one of your words, every one of your hearts, that will make the difference. I hope to join hands with you and walk that path again tomorrow.
Click here to learn about the above image of the New Zealand fern.