National Underground Railroad Freedom Center teaches community how to recognize bias

Open Your Mind to help identify biases

CINCINNATI -- We all have it: Bias.

Experts say implicit biases, the attitudes that impact people's thoughts and actions, are difficult to identify. 

That’s what Open Your Mind hopes to address. The exhibit at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center is aimed at helping the community understand their own implicit biases.

Exhibit Consultant Ryan Winett said the word “bias” often carries a negative connotation, but the purpose of Open Your Mind is not to make people feel ashamed about their bias.

"When I say bias it's almost impossible for anybody hearing that word not to have a negative reaction … the stuff that we're talking about --  call it another species -- it is outside of your awareness and more importantly outside your ability to have an intention to have it,” Winett said.

For business owner Rebekah Gensler, the exhibit provided insight on how to be aware of her biases when hiring new employees.

"(It was) dead on what I expect in that we all have biases and they affect the way we view the world around it,” Gensler said.

Part of the exhibit consists of a learning lab designed to assist people in recognizing bias and other forms of discrimination through a series of activities like word pairing.

Rich Cooper, exhibit interpreter, said Open Your Mind also features situations in which people are treated differently due to other’s biases.

"We have two people going into an emergency room, and they have two different experiences of what that is like,” Cooper said. “And this happens around the country … a black person -- when they go into an emergency room they may not be as believed as to how bad their pain is compared to a white person going in."

Winett said the lesson is clear.

"This isn't polio. You can’t just become aware of a problem and cure it,” Winett said. “But what you can do -- everything starts with awareness. Being open to the idea that there could be something else more to the situation and we just want to give people some vocabulary to talk about that."

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