Hello everyone, this post is our curation assignment (with Mahmoud Yehia) about empathy and bias. Each one of us will curate 5 topics -on his blog- we chose individually (articles / tweets/ class discussions/assignments) that we think best picture empathy and bias.
Earlier in the semester we had to read an article written by Lina Mounzer. This article is, for us, an amazing representation of empathy. Empathy is the ability to understand or even share the emotions of someone else. I believe none of us (the class) know Lina Mounzer and yet we all felt empathy towards her. She was talking about he relatives deaths and the horrible scenarios that happened to people she knew. While reading the article, we could feel the pain she must have been in while this was happening as most Egyptians felt the awful feeling of having someone die an unnatural death during the Egyptian revolution. (Find link to article here ). Reading this article while having empathy towards it gives it much more power.
I also felt a lot of empathy towards Parisa Mehran on the studio visit conserning empathy and bias as he colleague called her a terrorist simply because she does not look like him. I personally lived abroad most my life and have been put in such situations, I have been put in situations where people look at you in a different way, treat you differently because of how you look. However, a very important thing i’ve learned from Parisa Mehran’s talk is to never joke about such things. I often joked with my friends about their origins and backgrounds but never actually thought about how they could feel deep down even though they never really showed it.
I’ve followed Parisa Mehran’s twitter account as I can totally feel what there is behind her posts. A small and innocent voice saying ‘I shouldn’t be visualized as someone different, because i’m not!’ is all i hear throughout her posts. The picture saying ‘ I am more than a stereotype’ is a very deep one. Once more, I can only feel empathy towards it. Most of the time arabs or middle easterns are stereotyped as being the bad, heartless and even uneducated people. Perisa Merhan proves the complete opposite of this stereotype as she is a PHD candidate in computer assisted language learning living in Japan. To me, this is a reminder not to stick to stereotypes but instead to look at how the person built himself/herself, how the person acts, how the person thinks. To be honest, I sometimes stick to stereotypes which is extremely wrong. A great and educating post!
During class, I remember someone once brought up the topic of racism which lead to a small talk about random checks in airports. We all know that sometimes these random checks aren’t really random checks. Sometimes it’s because of how one looks, what he/she wears, the language he speaks. Now let’s think of this scenario, most middle-easterns would feel empathy towards the person going through a random check and would automatically call the police officer a racist. This very small discussion marked me and lead me to ask myself couldn’t we – middle easterns- be bias towards this ? Could this not really be a random check ? Do we only notice when the random check falls on a Middle eastern also known as arabs? I’ve learned here not to feel empathy too fast, it may be a bias if you think about it a bit more.
Perisa Merhan also posted a very interesting tweet that made me get a deeper understanding of bias. The tweet was a picture that says : Inclusion isn’t being asked to dance. It intrigued me a lot. I researched more about the types of biases one tends to have in his daily life and fell on ‘selection bias’. People tend to be bias towards a certain type of people with a certain reputation. People, especially students at parties tend to try to look as good as possible in front of the others. Hence, they choose certain people that they think look good, or are well known . This is a selection bias, selecting who to take for the dance based on how they look. This isn’t right. I personally used to abide by this bias to always try to look as good and well surrounded as possible. This will no longer be the case for me. Looks aren’t representative of the person.