Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Overcoming Biases

As I begin this project, I've been thinking about the type of portraits I want to create- and what statement I want to make. Art is, after all, communication.

First I looked at my fears and prejudices. What an uncomfortable process this will be! If part of the project's goal is to respond to religious intolerance, I have to get mine own out of the way first.

Let's be honest. Everyone has biases. Everyone has misconceptions. The trick is not acting upon them or letting them influence decisions.

I say it's "trick" because, to me, it's seems to take a sprinkling of magical fairy dust to erase those fears. While I find it incomprehensible that someone will see "terrorist" when they see a Muslim family -- to cite an all too common example today -- I will admit to seeing "anti-woman" when I see a Catholic priest protesting abortion services. That's one of my biases. It's a biggie.

But that person is a person of faith too. We can't both be right. But we can both be people.

So that's where I'm starting.

If I expect other people to confront bias and see a person of faith as a person first, I clearly have to do the work too.

What are the biases you see?


  1. My husband and I are not religious. He typically sees himself as an atheist; I typically see myself as agnostic.

    People who are not religious, especially atheists, are all too often perceived of as having no ethical code or sense of morality. This response occurs across many faiths and can also extend to harsh scrutiny and judgment of one another by those who do not share the same faith.

    But lots of people from all walks of life, religious or not, firmly believe in the Golden Rule of treating others as you want to be treated yourself and abide by many moral principles that are shared across faiths.

  2. I think the bias against "non-believers" can be as virulent as against faith groups that are outside what we call the "Judeo-Christian" mainstream. It's a hidden group and one that's ok to scorn. This is certainly an idea that I want to explore in this project.

    Are we afraid of people who don't believe as we do? Is that why we lash out?

  3. I totally agree. Across cultures, people are judged based on what faith they do or don't belong to, among so many other judgments of race, gender, sexuality, social status... I think it is a fear of the unknown, a disconnect that happens when people think that they do not perceive of life itself and human purpose the same. They become acutely aware that don't really understand what those differences mean or imply.

    It is far too easy to judge others but scrutiny can be much more fruitful when turned inwards. We can change our own behaviors and perceptions more readily than we can others'. Gandhi stated, "You must be the change you wish to see in the world." We can choose to set an example in our own lives to confront judgment and realize how very similar we truly are regardless of religion, race, gender, sexuality, social standing... we are all human.

    That is why this project you are embarking on is so very important in order to show how alike we are and to overcome that fear of the unknown, the "other."