Last year, renowned speaker Dr. Bryant T. Marks held workshops for all of the employees and staff in the Briarcliff Manor Union Free District regarding his theories about implicit bias. (You can read about the workshops here.)
This week, he held a virtual presentation for the entire student body of Briarcliff High School. His ideas resonated with many students so we spoke with several of them to hear their thoughts.
Miles Wolin and Olivia Scott, both juniors, participate in social studies teacher Kristin Becerra’s elective class called Racism, Classism and Sexism: Examination of Historical Roots Shaping Modern America. They both attended the virtual presentation and shared their reactions.
“I don’t necessarily think that everybody has implicit bias but I think that everybody knows that society is biased towards certain people,” said Olivia. “The presentation was meant to raise awareness about bias in our society and to teach us about how much influence others could have in our society.”
Miles, on the other hand, thinks that everyone has implicit bias.
“This type of bias exists in every single person. It is just how your brain works: we categorize information for efficiency,” he said. “I think that the most important thing about the assembly was to show us that these ideas live in everybody’s brains, regardless of whether you believe it or want to act on it. I think Dr. Marks wanted to make people aware of how they act and the way they treat some people.”
Both Olivia and Miles thought the presentation was helpful.
“We all know that it exists but the fact that it was brought directly to our attention in school around our peers was important,” Olivia said.
Although Olivia has not experienced bias against her or seen people around her acting with bias, Miles has a different experience.
“I have seen certain instances towards myself as a queer person,” he said. “I don’t think people intentionally want to treat somebody in a way that is biased, but some people don’t understand the gravity of what they say. The majority of the people in our school and community are very accepting, but there is a minority that isn’t.”
Ms. Becerra, who also teaches AP U.S. History and U.S. History and Government Regents, agrees with Miles and Olivia about the importance of having this type of presentation.
“It is definitely necessary and I think this was a good first step, but the work needs to continue,” she said. “There needs to be a very clear emphasis on this continuation of the work - we are dealing with implicit bias not only when it comes to race but also sexism, classism, ageism and other forms.”