Unconscious Bias and Firefighter Safety
What is Unconscious Bias?
Unconscious bias is a perception, judgement, or prejudice towards a given concept, item, person or groups of people which is so engrained in the conscious mind that it is unrecognized or unidentified.
These biases are what drive our thoughts and actions. They influence who we trust and who we don't, who we give assignments to or not, who we train, who we sit with at chow time, and who we spend our time with. We like things we are comfortable with, so the biases we already have in the far reaches of our minds are what float us along through life as we make every day choices. Generally we will choose to spend our time with people who fit the same sorts of demographics as our own and in turn that means we surround ourselves with people who have similar perspectives and shared ideas. This feels comfortable.
But in all this comfort, we really lose out on all the different perspectives that others have to bring to the table. In some cases, this level of shared perspectives, values, and ideas can even become a safety issue. That old saying, "see something, say something" takes on less meaning when an entire crew looks at the landscape with the same lens. It can even present problems when someone else with a different perspective (or even just someone who fits into a group we are unconsciously biased against) comes into the picture, particularly in leadership capacities. How can we trust them?
Check back next week for a story about my own personal unconscious biases and a few ways I've found to help check those unconscious biases to start rewiring perceptions.