A while back I mentioned I was working on controlling my bias by asking myself “is anything clouding my judgement about this, and if so, how?” about almost every issue. The easiest examples come from sports and politics.
A play goes wrong for one of my favorite teams and instead of me accepting the team is at fault or under-performing, I blame the refs for being poor at their job or the opposing team for playing dirty.
Perhaps a politician from a political party that doesn’t align with my values proposes certain legislation, I may never take the time to learn about the proposal but would instantly discredit it because of who proposed it.
I guess I’m doing all of this because I fear being narrow-minded or prejudiced, not to mention, I’ve already missed out on a bunch of great opportunities and friendships because I was quick to judge and slow to listen. I also feared doing myself a major disservice by not challenging my bias and just seeking out information that only confirmed it instead of challenging it and becoming open-minded.
All of this came to mind as I read this article on the Amanda Knox case, and I think the author knocks it out of the park by using the case as example of how easy and innocently we sway our thoughts. I posted what I thought was most pertinent below:
The recent Amanda Knox verdict and the response by the media and the public is an interesting lens into how many people allow their own biases to get in the way of objectivity.
All of us — no matter how enlightened, open-minded, or non-judgmental we are — walk around with many biases or prejudices. We hold innate viewpoints based on many factors: our own race, how or where we were raised, our income levels, our faith, our physical stature, our partisanship or ideology, our sex and so many different attributes that influence our outlook.
On the best day I try to understand and see my own biases clearly, so that I can better weigh my judgments or perspectives and open my mind to diverse opinions. And we are in a culture today that does the exact opposite: We seek out information that confirms our biases as opposed to finding thought that might counter them.
A practice that I try to do as often as I can when looking at many issues and in my personal life is to close my eyes, and imagine if the positions were reversed or the roles were flip-flopped. How would my views change if I switched the positions of what I am looking at. If they are consistent, then I know I am having judgment that bears with it a high level of integrity.
So let’s look at the Amanda Knox situation. What would our decision be if an Italian citizen came to this country, was implicated in a gruesome murder, was convicted by a court, and lost ultimately on appeal, and that Italian citizen was now living back in Italy?
My guess is many would be demanding this Italian be extradited and sent to prison here so justice would be done. Many folks in this country are convicted with much less evidence than Knox was convicted with in Italy. I am not saying that I know whether Knox is guilty, but it is understandable why many Europeans think she should go to prison.
What if Knox, instead of being an attractive young white female, was an older rough looking Latino. Would we still hold the same viewpoint that Italy’s judicial system is messed up?