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Palo Alto forum to test local biases, stereotypes

Human Relations Commission will host 'implicit bias' event on March 30

Think you're not prejudiced? A new forum on implicit biases sponsored by Palo Alto's Human Relations Commission might test that premise.

The commission hopes to raise awareness of how unrecognized or subconscious assumptions color understanding, actions and decisions made every day, even among the most accepting members of Palo Alto's community.

The forum, "Being Different Together -- Experiencing Palo Alto, perception and reality," will take place on March 30, 7-9 p.m., at Mitchell Park Community Center, and it is free.

The forum's goal is not to point fingers of blame, but, rather, to help free people of assumptions, subcommittee member and Commissioner Valerie Stinger said. The outcome, hopefully, will bring a new awareness that will enrich the community by encouraging understanding, she said.

The speakers include Rabbi Emeritus Sheldon Lewis, Kol Emeth; Jade Chao, a Palo Alto Family YMCA director; Rev. Dr. Diana Gibson, adjunct professor, University of Santa Clara and cofounder of Multifaith Voices for Peace & Justice; Amy Lazarus, CEO of Inclusion Ventures; Delorme McKee-Stovall, director of the Santa Clara County Office of Human Relations; and Stephanie Rabiner, Project Sentinel senior fair-housing coordinator. They will share what has inspired them and the resources and strategies they have used to uncover implicit biases, she said.

Stinger said she hopes that attendees will come away with practical and tangible tools to address biases in social and business situations. Taking her inspiration from poet Gary Snyder, Stinger said that from his writings she learned that without biological diversity, plant and animal communities do not thrive and can even collapse. So, too, with human communities, she said.

"As a community, we are stronger if we appreciate the strengths of a diverse community. I'm really optimistic. I really think we can deliver to the community a program that they can appreciate and enjoy and benefit from," she said.

The keynote speaker, Dr. Joseph Brown, is the associate director of the Diversity & First Gen Office at Stanford University and an expert in implicit bias. University A.M.E. Zion Church Pastor Kaloma Smith will moderate the panel of community leaders.

Implicit bias is defined as positive and negative attitudes and stereotypes that affect understanding and behaviors and are activated involuntarily without one's awareness or intention. Such bias resides deep within an individual and is different from conscious biases, which a person might choose to keep hidden for social reasons, according to Ohio State University's Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity.

Implicit biases can have real and profoundly harmful impacts, resulting in differential health care, for example. According to the Institute, a 2012 study used identical case vignettes to examine how pediatricians' implicit racial attitudes affected treatment for four common conditions. As pediatricians' pro-white biases increased, they were more likely to prescribe painkillers to those children as opposed to black patients, the study found.

Other studies revealed that persons with Afrocentric features, such as dark skin or a wide nose and full lips, received harsher criminal sentences for similar crimes than persons without those characteristics. Whites and blacks who had those facial features were treated to the same bias and harsh sentencing, studies found, the Institute noted.

Stinger, who spearheaded the organization of the forum, said that she became acutely aware of implicit bias in Palo Alto after attending a forum held by Pastor Smith at University A.M.E. Zion Church in July 2015. Smith convened the forum after the Charleston, South Carolina, killings of nine African American church members by a white supremacist. There, Stinger said she heard many people discuss their experiences with prejudice and overt and implicit bias.

"There's something raw there, an undercurrent," she said.

She tested her theory at her book club. Everyone said they had no biases and no prejudices.

"But as the discussion opens up, each person surfaced a story of implicit bias that they had done themselves. If we raise awareness, we can be a little bit better about how we treat our neighbors," she said.

Stinger attended a talk by actress and playwright Anna Deavere Smith, who charged her audience to do something to change society. But doing something big, such as altering the educational system, is too big for one person, Stinger said. So she decided to look at what she could do as an individual, and that meant acting locally.

"At a certain core, we have to get (at) it on our own turf. (Then) the awareness that we develop in our own community will extend beyond it," she said.

The forum subcommittee videotaped people telling their stories of implicit bias, which will be shared at the forum. Stinger said she was struck by the many ways that people in Palo Alto are affected by these biases and stereotypes.

"People are getting served differently in restaurants; people of Muslim faith with a hijab (head covering) are not getting employment opportunities; a woman, a professional, is treated as the nanny when she goes out," she said.

While Palo Alto is fortunate not to experience the overt prejudice that has led to violence in other parts of the country, that perception of acceptance can lead people to a false sense of equality, Stinger said.

"Sometimes that masks unconscious biases, and that still hurts identities," she said.

Stinger has had a long career in diverse communities. In 1999, she left a career in new product planning at Genentech and Syntex to become a Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco. She taught business students and worked with a developing artisan business. She has continued to work in developing countries, with weavers in Lesotho; vendors in Sudan; farmers in Malawi, Ghana, Tanzania and Uganda; scientists in the former Soviet Union and women entrepreneurs in the Middle East.

One lesson stood out: "How little you need to do to take care of your neighbor. People who had so little in Africa still took care of their neighbors," she said. "It was that caring; the power of one."

Minka van der Zwaag, head of Palo Alto's Office of Human Services and staff liaison to the commission, said the forum is about identifying the desired outcome for the community.

"What is my hope for Palo Alto? What kind of community do I want to live in?" she said. It's a chance "for people to be energized and activated and have very clear ideas about that community."

Take the test

A nonprofit group, Project Implicit, has created a series of tests to help people identify their biases. The information can also help project researchers who are interested in implicit social cognition -- thoughts and feelings outside of conscious awareness and control. The goal of the organization is to educate the public about hidden biases and to provide a "virtual laboratory" for collecting data on the Internet. The tests can be found at http://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/takeatest.html.

Comments

6 people like this
Posted by Quercus
a resident of Ventura
on Mar 26, 2016 at 3:40 pm

Tried to take one of the mentioned tests but they don't allow access via iPhone or iPad!
Only offered in Flash.


43 people like this
Posted by donald
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 26, 2016 at 10:06 pm

Are you thinking about voting for Donald Trump? Don't bother taking this test. You already know what your score will be.


11 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 26, 2016 at 11:11 pm

Curmudgeon is a registered user.

These are weird tests. But they confirm I'm a living saint, so why complain?


29 people like this
Posted by Bun
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 27, 2016 at 4:39 pm

People here are prejudiced against conservative ideas and people.
There is no respect for another political orientation.


16 people like this
Posted by @Bun
a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 27, 2016 at 5:36 pm

"People here are prejudiced against conservative ideas and people.
There is no respect for another political orientation."

Uh...tolerance goes both ways. Or haven't you noticed how so-called "conservatives" have shown disrespect towards those not of their ideology?


8 people like this
Posted by Roger Overnaut
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 27, 2016 at 5:40 pm

"People here are prejudiced against conservative ideas and people."

It's not prejudice; it's the rational choice in the free marketplace. The honest, thinking people of this area have weighed conservative ideas in the balance and found them extremely wanting.

There are just too many smart, educated, successful people in the area for conservatism to take root. Even our popular former Congressman, the confirmed Republican Paul McCloskey, recently became a Democrat. Conservative ain't what it used to be.


12 people like this
Posted by Janet
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 27, 2016 at 5:59 pm

Is a question asked as to whether the "Black Lives Matters" group is racist? Most PA liberals would be shocked at the very concept...but that white cop in Ferguson, MO was a victim of a modern public relations lynching, thanks to BLM, even though he was just doing his job against a black street thug who tried to kill him. Will PA liberals step up and demand that he get his job back, with a huge settlement?


3 people like this
Posted by A PA Liberal
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 27, 2016 at 6:27 pm

"Will PA liberals step up and demand that he get his job back, with a huge settlement?"

Does he want that job back? Why would he? Ferguson's government has been totally disgraced for its scams that extorted small fortunes from its citizens, pushing them into everlasting hock by piling incidental fees onto traffic fines and charging loan shark interest on both. I don't know why conservatives love robber governments. I don't.


2 people like this
Posted by BLM Supporter
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 27, 2016 at 7:48 pm

@Janet

You are right. Black lives matter is definitely not a Conservative doctrine.


14 people like this
Posted by Hopenchange
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 27, 2016 at 8:34 pm



"All Lives Matter" is a good progressive position. It covers all the bases.


8 people like this
Posted by A former resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 28, 2016 at 7:20 am

I haven't taken the test and can't really comment on any of the question. However, the issue I used to have with Palo Alto School District when my family was living in PA and my son attended one of the schools there.
On more than a few occasions I had to deal with people at the school district for issue related to my children's schools, I was treated completely different because we were renters and not home owners. One time, the head of the office even threatened me that she will showed up at my apt. just to check if we lived there.
Many of my friends lived in San Jose and other cities and their kids ended up going to UC schools, UCLA, Cal Berkeley... and ended up being good contributors to the society. People who run the PA school district need to stop discriminating people who can't afford to own a home in PA.


20 people like this
Posted by @hopenchange
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 28, 2016 at 10:43 am

Some employees wrote, " ALL lives matter" on the public graffiti walls at FaceBook in Menlo Park, and Zuckerberg had a cow about it, threatening to fire the employees who did it! He ordered "ALL lives matter" to be erased, and only " Black lives matter" allowed.

So much for free speech at FaceBook!


72 people like this
Posted by donald
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 28, 2016 at 10:55 am

@hopenchange - that is not what happened. I suggest you read the news reports again.


10 people like this
Posted by 38 year resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 28, 2016 at 11:46 am

@Roger Overnaut....why is it that liberals (I'm assuming you are) always make disparaging comments about the education of conservatives? As if liberals are the only ones with a higher education, successful or capable of rational thought. Or equating liberals with the words honesty and thinking. My understanding of recent polling indicates the two words most associated with Hillary Clinton, a liberal, are "liar" and "untrustworthy." Just as many conservatives have weighed in on liberal ideas and found them "extremely wanting". Perhaps they don't all live in the bay area or especially in Palo Alto, but there are plenty of them out there. You're right about conservatism. It ain't being what it used to be, but neither is progressive liberalism.


3 people like this
Posted by Roger Overnaut
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 28, 2016 at 12:26 pm

"@Roger Overnaut....why is it that liberals (I'm assuming you are) always make disparaging comments about the education of conservatives?"

For one, conservatives make lots of sweeping generalizations like the one above.

"Or equating liberals with the words honesty and thinking."

It works this way: One can be honest, one can be a thinker, one can be a conservative, but one cannot be all three at the same time.

"recent polling indicates the the two words most associated with Hillary Clinton, a liberal, are "liar" and "untrustworthy." "

Yet she has been investigated numerous times by Congressional Republicans and exonerated each time. I don't know of any conservative with a Congressionally certified clean record like that.

I suspect the unfavorable polling reflects the fact that Clinton was cleared by the Republicans. Being convicted by Republicans would be much more favorable to her, as it was to her husband.


18 people like this
Posted by Twisted Bleeding Hearts
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 28, 2016 at 2:16 pm

If anyone wants to feel the full brunt of broad based institutionalized and cultural prejudice, hike to the top of the satellite dish in the Stanford Hills and shout that you are white, heterosexual, middle-aged, Christian, Republican, a gun owner and a military veteran.

Despite any individual merits, viewpoints or history, ostensibly educated and open minded liberals will claw over themselves to shout you down and project their hatred onto your stereotype. Before the last words leave your mouth, you will be bombarded with accusations of privilege, racism, misogyny, homophobia, and xenophobia.

To deny those charges is only further proof in their eyes. If there is no overt evidence then you must be somehow using a hidden network of dog whistles and code speak and signal words.

Like the Arthur Miller play about the Salem Witch Trials, they want to keep adding more ideological stones upon your chest until you either expire or confess.

Liberals don't practice what they preach. The only salve for their internal guilt is hypocrisy. Or to use another literary reference, Liberals are like Magua in The Last of the Mohicans.

Their bleeding hearts are twisted and they would become that which twisted them.


8 people like this
Posted by For people who blame someone else
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 28, 2016 at 2:29 pm

Lots of advice for the other guy...as usual.
Continue to "Victim on" all you poor sad souls.

When will the other guy change so you can finally be happy, right? hahaha.
Some are in for a long and frustrated time on this planet.
Yes, today should be a nice day at the Dish.


4 people like this
Posted by Tim Buck II
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 28, 2016 at 3:01 pm

"If anyone wants to feel the full brunt of broad based institutionalized and cultural prejudice, hike to the top of the satellite dish in the Stanford Hills and shout that you are white, heterosexual, middle-aged, Christian, Republican, a gun owner and a military veteran."

I didn't know they allowed anybody on top of that thing -- high voltages and all. When's your next performance? Can I watch?


9 people like this
Posted by 38 year resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 28, 2016 at 3:05 pm

@Roger Overnaut...you made my point by answering my comment with a generalization about conservatives. I could have been kinder by saying "many" liberals as opposed liberals as a group, though it's hard to deny that it's the way it is. As to Hillary Clinton and the words that most associate her with (liar and untrustworthy), she earned those stripes long before Congressional Republicans began their investigations into her lies about Benghazi and other actions, including the ongoing FBI investigation of her questionable activities as Secretary of State.


2 people like this
Posted by Roger Overnaut
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 28, 2016 at 3:33 pm

"@Roger Overnaut...you made my point by answering my comment with a generalization about conservatives."

There's a subtle difference between your admittedly conservative "always make" and my (assumed liberal by yourself) "make lots of" that educated people catch immediately. But this is not an English forum, so if you didn't get it, never mind.

"she [Hillary] earned those stripes long before Congressional Republicans began their investigations into her lies about Benghazi and other actions, including the ongoing FBI investigation of her questionable activities as Secretary of State."

Two more big jewels coming up for her victory bracelet, to go with Whitewater and Travelgate. Don't those House Republicans act like little kids trying to win one, just one, round in a fight where they are clearly way overmatched: "OK, best two out of three; OK, best three out of five; OK, best four out of six: ..."?

So much for the once elite Party of <lineout> Lincoln </lineout><lineout> Reagan </lineout> Trump.


5 people like this
Posted by Be Careful What You Yell
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Mar 28, 2016 at 3:55 pm

"shout that you are white, heterosexual, middle-aged, Christian, Republican, a gun owner and a military veteran."

Soft pedal that last item, or you'll hear the offspring of the conservative elites with surnames like Bush, Cheney, Armey, Gingrich yelling "sucker" "sucker"


4 people like this
Posted by If_the_FBI_is_Right_We_Must_Indict
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 30, 2016 at 11:22 am

If_the_FBI_is_Right_We_Must_Indict is a registered user.

@Roger Overnaut

All you equivocators are wrong and are under-stating what HRC is alleged to have done.

At a minimum, just based on the limited public information already available, she and members of her team are apparently guilty of a range of felonies involving the handling, retention, withholding and intentional destruction of classified government material.

What's worse, we know that some of the information is so sensitive that if discovered by our enemies it would set our country's diplomacy back decades and lead to the death of some of our operatives and allies. Given the unprofessional setup of the email server and handheld devices she insisted on using we can surmise that the system was almost certainly breached.

In addition, the FBI has reportedly expanded its investigation beyond document handling and espionage to include corruption violations involving the intersection of the Secretary of State administration, the Clinton Foundation and the Teneo Holdings consulting group. Several of her staff and inner circle held concurrent positions or conducted concurrent activities creating the concern of a quid pro quo arrangement and conflict of interest. Evidence of those transactions might have been with the emails that were deleted.

If true, these are both very serious crimes. A key test will be if the FBI recommends indictment on charges and the Attorney General refuses to pursue them. That miscarriage of justice would be a scandal greater in scope than Watergate and would rock the foundation of our democracy.

Consider that before you blithely minimize her actions and pull the handle on the voting machine.


Like this comment
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 30, 2016 at 1:08 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

I was afraid of this. All the political stuff back and forth on posts so far. I'd like to think tonight's meeting would/could be helpful in some way, but I'm doubtful because of the posts so far, and they don't say what the real purpose and goal is. If the panel is just trying to get into our heads and help us realize and admit we do have prejudices, then it is a waste of time. I wouldn't want to get off their psychiatrist couches with guilt feelings. And I would hope each of them, at the beginning, would share with the attendees what their prejudices are.

I have my own, I guess, by their definition because I don't like some things that are happening in my town and I think I'm accurate in attributing those directly to certain groups. Okay label me, tag me, hate me, but will I change? Not a chance!


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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