Know Your Bias

    Taped to the front panel of the podium in my high school geography teacher’s classroom was a piece of white paper on which was printed the phrase, “Know Your Bias.” The font was large enough that you could read it from the back of the room, and I stared at it often. I don't think I knew exactly what the word “bias” meant going into that class, but I managed to figure it out, for the most part, by the end of the term.

    My teacher’s point was that there is no such thing as objectivity, worshipped though the concept may be in recent Western history. So, whenever you quote a source, cite a statistic, or point to a “fact” as the basis of any point you’re making, you need to understand that there is always more to the story than meets the eye. Any time humans are involved, I came to understand, preferences and prejudices are brought into play--there is no one who is not a subject, and no one who is free from the influence of his or her natural identity and surrounding environment.

    To me, the phrase “Know Your Bias” is important not only because it outright refutes the myth of the objective in its most basic assumption, but also because it neutralizes subjectivity in the moral sense. In other words, there is nothing wrong with the fact that you have a bias, that I have a bias--many biases, in fact. This is not an error. The error is in refusing to acknowledge and factor in those biases when discussing and debating important topics, making important decisions, or just interacting with the world around us on a daily basis.

    So, in the proverbial interest of full disclosure, and given that I will be making some bold and controversial statements on this site, I thought it perhaps a good idea to begin by putting forward the parts of myself and my experience that most definitely contribute to my unique brand of bias. This, for the most part, is where I’m coming from:

-I am a white, straight, cisgender, able-bodied and -minded female

-I was born in 1981, in California

-I was also raised in California, on the north end of the central coast

-My parents are a heterosexual couple and are still married

-I am the oldest of three children (one sister and one brother)

-I grew up middle-class

-I grew up going to a Baptist church and remained involved in Evangelicalism until my mid-20s

-I have traveled to about 15 different countries, most of which are “Western” (European or in the British Commonwealth)

-Formally, I studied literature, writing, communications, and theology

-I’ve been to grad school--twice

-I’ve worked in food/customer service, data entry, multiple administrative assistant positions, writing/editing positions, and education

There are more details, of course, but this is not meant to be an all-inclusive autobiography. These are, I think, the most major contributors to my point of view, and thus warrant a mention. I also have my innate personality--as we all do--which will make itself clearer as I continue to post.

For now...consider your context.