Pickpocketing and Unconscious Bias

For the summer I’m living in Athens, Greece.
I’m here accompanying my daughter who has a modeling contract.
Fortunately my business is 99% online so I’m able to work while I enjoy some sightseeing and the odd island hop. (Mykonos is on our list.)
As we got settled in, we were warned several times by our contacts and the tourist office about pickpockets, specifically to look out for “immigrants.”
Instantly, my “critter” brain was put on alert. As I navigated crowds on the metro and streets, I was on the lookout, prepped for survival, and on the defense.
I didn’t quite know what to look for…perhaps their clothing, the shape of their nose or their accents would give them away.
My brain scanned crowds for anything different from the “norm” – as they say in CIA training, “anything unusual is either a threat or an opportunity.”
I was consciously looking for “immigrants.” Yet when I didn’t know exactly what to look for, my deeply grained unconscious bias kicked in as I zeroed in on black, brown, and disheveled people.*suspicious person
Unconscious biases are learned stereotypes that are automatic and influence our behavior. Our brain automatically “jumps” or shortcuts to snap judgements based on our past experiences or universal stereotypes. As a result, certain people benefit and other people are burdened.
Important to note: Unconscious Bias is not conducive to an elevated or expansive mindset.
If you are biased (hint: we all are), I invite you into a daily practice on how to manage biases. I call it the 4 Cs:

  1. Get Conscious (It all starts with self-awareness. Get aware of your thoughts, feelings and physical sensations. Be aware of your biases.)
  2. Get Curious (Get curious. Ask yourself, “Why did I immediately assume that?” “Why did my brain jump to that conclusion? Have I healed the past experiences that led me to that stereotype? )
  3. Get Close (Get close and connected to people from groups, races or socioeconomic backgrounds you may have biases about. Have a conversation. Learn their story. Be connected. Gather new evidence to support your new way of thinking.)
  4. Continuously Improve (Managing biases is a practice. You can continuously improve by getting curious about your snap judgements, getting conscious of your thoughts and the person you want to be, and connecting with all types of people. It’s a practice for living consciously and building bridges with others.)

*Note: I say this with complete vulnerability as my background is of mixed race (African/American + British) so I too am brown. I also have been blessed with the privilege of a western upbringing, financial well being, and a certain ‘presence.’ So I see how privilege plays a role in my life, and we can also harbor biases against people who look like us.

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