If the stormtroopers weren’t all white

Well, I thought the title was funny. In a bit of Star Wars lore, the original army was of clones from a single person. After an uprising within the clones, they included more genetic diversity within the ranks to prevent future insurrections. Even the Empire came to appreciate a more diverse group of stormtroopers.

Following the Phillips’ article, I read one called “Three myths plus a few best practices for achieving diversity”. The article focuses on STEM fields, but it has a few points that I really like. When attempting to achieve a more diverse group, we succumb to the belief that there is prescription or a method for achieving this. I get where that notion may come from. In these types of fields, we seem to approach things very logically. If I do A, then B should happen. Or, there are procedures galore on how to do things. If that is how we approach trying to foster a more diverse workplace, are we truly seeking to do that or just doing it for the sake of numbers? I appreciate the approaches suggested.

The article suggests that rather than looking for a prescription for diversity, we should adopt certain practices that promote diversity. The three practices are to forget colorblindness, enhance belonging, and continue action. The one that resonates with me the best is forgetting color blindness. They suggest that we acknowledge the differences between people rather than pretending like they don’t exist. I appreciate that; but, this idea needs to be fleshed out more. I think there is a tension that needs to be held there. We need to appreciate the differences among each other, yet find a way to see everyone as equal. That sense of if we focus too much on our uniqueness, we forget the common things that bind us together. Yet, we don’t want to rob people of their identities. It is easy to say, but doing is harder. It will require lots of work, and there is no simple 5-step guide to achieving that balance. Much like it was suggested that to overcome our biases, we have to stop and think about things more.

Speaking of bias, I feel tricked by the bias test. However, it shows that even how unbiased we believe ourselves to be there exists some level of bias. I don’t feel we should beat ourselves up over that. These are things we have learned from a young age. I like the suggestion that we should think more about our biases, and why we have that association. It may sound a bit lame, but stopping and thinking seems to improve a lot of things. Maybe we just need to stop and think, what would others say about this? Even the “threat” of a more diverse group makes us better thinkers.

11 Replies to “If the stormtroopers weren’t all white”

  1. I am not a huge fan of the bias tests either. They are eye-opening for sure, but they sort of make me feel badly about myself. Of course we all have implicit biases – it is probably impossible not to. But, as long as we treat people with respect, we should not harp on the fact that we have biases.

    1. Interesting post and comment. I think it’s good to recognize bias but if all we do is say, “wow, I sure am biased,” or even, “wow, those people are all biased,” we are only doing half the exercise. We need to accept that ALL people (including ourselves) have biases. Frankly, having them doesn’t necessarily mean we are evil. No matter how or where you were raised, you end up thinking certain ways about certain things. The trick is to recognize bias and overcome it anyway. Like Erin said, you respect people in spite of bias and then you do your best to keep an open mind and allow your opinions to change or at least allow yourself to accept there may be things you don’t know or may have misunderstood. And hopefully, as we all change together we can truly be more inclusive. Thanks for the post. Glad to know the Stormtroopers figured it out eventually.

  2. I agree with you about the bias tests; the first time I took it I was surprised/saddened by the result as well. Erin and quick both brought up good points about realizing we have them and working to keep an open mind. I also thought the point you and the article brought up about acknowledging each others unique qualities and working to treat everyone equal. As you said, there is no prescription for diversity, but actively working to cultivate it is a worthwhile endeavor.

  3. Definitely a good title! The hidden bias tests are provocative. The less biased we think we are, the more confounding (and irritating) the results, it seems. But the point of taking them isn’t to feel bad about yourself, but rather to get a reference on the disconnect between what you think about yourself and the extent to which certain attitudes are pretty much baked into our social DNA. The more aware we are of our hidden biases — the less hidden they are from us — the better able we are to resist acting on them.

  4. One point you bring up that really stood out to me (and was lost in the bias conversation) was how much we need to stop and think. However, our society today is really not constructed to stop and think, is it. We have become so fast-paced with our smart cars, smart computers, and smart phones that work so quickly quickly quickly that we have forgotten to stop and think. Yes, unconscious bias are a norm and that is why it is imperative that we teach ourselves and others to stop and think…not jumping to conclusions, not assuming realities, and not making judgments in split seconds would serve us well in the long term.

  5. Nice blog and thanks for this conversation. Yes, the bias tests are frustrating but should not be used to judge us, that is bias itself, but rather inform us that we are not perfect and all have strides to take to be the people we want to be. As someone who can check a box that makes me diverse, I have asked whether I got the job or the acceptance into a program because of merit or race. I like your take on the three steps and agree. Don’t pretend we aren’t different, embrace it and realize we are all humans with different talents. Let’s put our talents together and create a work of art.

  6. Thank you for your interesting post! I agree with you about colorblindness and how tricky it could be! I think one of the important points is when we say people are different, what do we mean? at what level are we talking about? and again, when we consider humans as similar, in what terms are they alike? Yes, we all have different beliefs, traditions, physical features and etc. but we all are doing our best to make sense of this crazy world in order to survive, and maybe this is one of the similarities which tie us all together!

  7. Good evening,

    LOVE THE TITLE! You get my vote for hot topic! LOL! Several things, first I agree that we must forget colorblindness. I think it defeats the purpose of diversity. To say we “are all the same, think the same, do the same” denies the work that has been done to ensure “we all deserve equal treatment”. Those are two different conversations. Second, the bias tests are interesting. For some reason my brain always tries to figure out how to game the system.

    Thanks!

    Cheers, Lehi

  8. Yeah, those bias tests are challenging. But here’s the thing. We learn all kinds of biases from birth on (from our parents, society in general, the freaking toy store), but just because we grew up learning that Barbie goes with Ken doesn’t mean we act on that. Implicit biases may be there, but we don’t act in split seconds every day, especially when something matters. There is always time for us to assess our viewpoint and make inclusive decisions. But, yeah. I feel your pain.

  9. Chris, I agree that we need to appreciate and acknowledge our differences and find ways to see each others as equal. This comment reminds me the end of Black Panther when he comments “We all know the truth: more connects s than separates us. But in times of crisis the wise build bridges, while the foolish build barriers.” Unfortunately, I feel society focuses more on the barriers and not building bridges between each other like we need to.

  10. I like your post, and the reference to colorblindness. During my first exposure to any sort of diversity training, my worldview was completely shifted when the instructors talked about this topic. Growing up you were supposed to say, “I don’t see color,” to mean that you treated people of different races and cultures equally. However, saying this means you actually DO see color, and are maybe even afraid to embrace it. What’s more important is the opposite – acknowledging color and what it means in our society. This is much more progressive than trying to ignore that it’s there.

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