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Thoughts you never knew you had and 4 actions you can take to control them

  • Posted on: 15 February 2015
  • By: Irene

Greetings TEDxFlourCity fans! We hope you have been staying warm and are conquering the snow as we hike our way through February. The team is continuing to ramp up for May; preparing for a salon in the coming month, and searching for our next speakers. If you are interested in speaking at our next event, or know of anyone who would be great, shoot us an email/or send them our way:

Now it's time to highlight another TEDxFlourCity2014 speaker. 

Being unaware of your implicit biases is like living in the Matrix. “I’m here to yank out the plug and disconnect you from the mainframe,” says TEDxFlourCity2014 speaker Melanie Funchess. Funchess is the director of community engagement for the Mental Health Association, and implicit bias is a topic she teaches about on a regular basis.

Melanie Funchess on the TEDxFlourCity2014 Stage

Implicit biases are the stereotypes that affect our attitudes, behaviors and decisions, unconsciously. In situations in which discrimination occurs, Funchess asserts, many times implicit bias is at play. The biases a person has about certain groups may be so ingrained that is impossible to perceive a situation that is inconsistent with his or her stereotyped beliefs in a positive way. The destructive results of this is that it can impede the success, and even basic functioning, of the people who are the target of these negative beliefs.

Funchess describes her experience with prejudice when she was in grade school. She excelled at math, and one day she was the fastest to solve a long division problem on the chalkboard in front of the class. After confirming her solution on a calculator she signaled to her teacher, with pride, that she was done. In response, her teacher spit out a racial slur and told her that it was impossible she was correct, because no one of her race could do anything right.

When people in positions of power, such as teachers, take actions that are influenced by implicit bias, they have the dangerous ability to prevent young people from even starting on the path toward their goals. Recently Funchess’ daughter had a similar, though subtler, experience with a guidance counselor, who steered her away from her ambitious career goals, despite her excellent grades. Decades later, Funches says, “the words may have changed but the bias, the power and the potential impact remain the same.."

"...Just because we have an African American president, and a gay man in the NFL, does not mean we’ve ‘arrived…’ “ she says.

Funchess believes it is possible to create a world where our attitudes and actions are controlled by our choices rather than our biases and fears. To do so will require everyone to take active steps toward changing our minds. The important steps Funchess calls on us to take are:

1.“Do your own personal work” to identify, understand and challenge your own biases.

2. Make genuine connections with people “that don’t look like you.”

3. Deliberately engage in “non-biasing activities” by joining heterogeneous groups, in which you can learn about one another.

4. “When you have privilege, use it to create equity.”

“…In order for us to have this ‘better world’ we’re talking about we must be better ourselves and be better to each other…You don’t have to be stuck in the Matrix,” she says.

Watch her talk “Implicit Bias--How it Effects us and how we Push Through”:

If the impulse strikes you, we would love it if you shared this video with your friends and family by clicking on the "share" button below. 

Look out for our next post where we will highlight another speaker from our TEDxFlourCitySalon: Voz-The Power of the Latino Voice

Have a wonderful week!