The first person I heard speak about the idea of unconscious bias was Prince Harry. He claimed that his upbringing made him completely unaware of ‘unconscious racial bias’, until he met Meghan Markle. The fact that he grew up in a family where his grandmother was head of the Commonwealth, of which many member states have non-white leaders, where the Royal Family themselves have many initiatives to help people from poorer Commonwealth countries (I clearly remember seeing a video of Prince Harry chatting and joking with chefs from the Caribbean involved in a training scheme at Buckingham Palace), seems to have left him blissfully unaware of different races.
His tours to Afghanistan must have included non-white soldiers in his squadrons, not to mention the locals themselves who mostly don’t look like they come from Sandhurst. No. A beautiful biracial actress, who doesn’t look particularly dark (I thought more Latin than African-American) taught him everything he needed to know about unconscious racism. Because that is what he is talking about; it is not ‘bias’, but racism that he refers to. It is not about preferring blue to green. It is about preferring white to black.
But how can any kind of bias be ‘unconscious’? We know what our biases are. I prefer red to green, pinot noir to pinot gris, pasta over couscous and British drama over American drama. Generally. There are no absolutes, but these are my preferred options… or biases, if you like.
The Cambridge Dictionary defines the word ‘bias’ as follows:
the action of opposing or supporting a particular person or thing in an unfair way, because of allowing personal opinions to influence your judgement.
Sounds fair enough. I am not sure I am opposed to pinot gris, but I don’t particularly like it, and that is my personal opinion. Does that count as biased?
When it comes to people, we all have our preferences. People who believe the world is going to end in the next 5 minutes because of climate change do not appeal to me. I dislike hypocrites. Am I biased against them? Yes, probably, but that does not mean that I dislike everyone who has ever been a tad hypocritical. We all have failings. We all have good features and bad features.
I don’t think that makes any sense. I KNOW if I don’t like something, or someone. We all do.
Sigmund Freud became famous for his work on the unconscious mind, but his subjects were different in that most of them had suffered some form of trauma. The trauma had been suppressed by the subject, but strange behavioural patterns proved that the suppression was not complete. It was by identifying the causes of these behaviours that Freud was able to help his patients by bringing the suppressed experiences out into the open.
So, unless you develop a strange tic or spasm every time you see a non-white person, I suspect there is no connection between your subconscious and persons of colour… if you are white, of course.
The whole question crystallised for me when, on a Zoom meeting with some of my UK family last month, my nephew, who is in his late 30s, a lovely guy but brainwashed by all the latest leftist fads, was talking about ‘unconscious bias’ and said that he knew he was guilty of it. He said that we all are.
When I asked him how, if it is ‘unconscious’, he could realise he was guilty of it, there was a confused silence.
And surely, that’s the point. We all know our own biases. We know if we don’t like certain people, certain groups of people or even certain races. We may not admit to it, but we know. It is not unconscious. We may act differently towards other people, but we know about it. We always do.
Prince Harry claimed that his privileged upbringing caused his ‘unconscious bias’. We are all products of our upbringing, even those who grew up in Harlem. Our upbringing shapes our ideas and attitudes for a long time to come. If your father was a cloth-cap unionist, chances are, you voted Labour for a large part of your life. By and large, this is true of everyone, Prince Harry included.
The place where I start to question his reasoning, however, comes when he claims that it was only through witnessing the experiences of his wife, Meghan, that he had gained a sense of how pernicious unconscious bias is.
Meghan Markle… stunningly beautiful, one of the stars of a popular Netflix legal drama series who had her own successful lifestyle blog…who had literally thousands of people lining the streets of Windsor cheering and waving on her wedding day… her life was so terrible that her husband learned about unconscious racism because of it? There would be millions of women prepared to exchange their humdrum lives for her success and privilege, but it seems, however successful, wealthy and privileged you are, if you are a person of colour, you are always disadvantaged, no matter what.
So, as the white race is constantly beaten down with accusations about racism and is even subjected to retraining programmes, remember two things. The first is that you cannot bring one group up by pushing another group down. Secondly, if you are being retrained for things that you are unconscious of, you will never know if the training has been successful. So, this beating down of the white races is nothing more than a convenient mechanism used to berate white people, and the berating will never end.
They say that Meghan Markle is the first person in history ever to turn a prince into a frog. Dare I suggest that she has also turned an oxymoron into nothing more than… a moron.
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