This blog was originally posted on The Huffington Post on March 4, 2015.
Are you accepting of other people? Tolerant of their differences? When it comes to race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, or even ability, are you free of prejudice?
If you answered “yes,” you’re not alone. Eighty-five percent of Americans consider themselves to be free of prejudice. Eighty-five percent. Now that’s a wonderful thing, worth celebrating. But are you sure?
We should recognize that, in practice, it is a lot harder to overcome bias and truly judge and love people on “the content of their character” than we may think. This week we mark the 50th anniversary of the Selma March, an anniversary that reminds us while we’ve come so far, we still have so much further to go
That discrimination still exists is hardly news. As a nation, we seem to be more divided than ever. We are a people that too often fall back on old stereotypes, that too eagerly cling to the safety of what’s known, and that too quickly forget that diversity and inclusion are strengths. That can lead to devastating, and sometimes even deadly, consequences. The stories that continue to dominate the headlines break my heart and remind me — as they should remind all of us — that we are far from a prejudice-free society.
We shake our heads in disbelief. We marvel at the insensitivity and intolerance of others. But the uncomfortable truth is it’s not just others, it’s us. In fact, research shows that we all have hidden biases towards those who appear different. It turns out that implicit bias — that is, bias that we unconsciously hold and often times unknowingly exhibit — is not a phenomenon confined to a small few. It’s a type of “fast thinking” discrimination to which nearly all of us contribute.
No matter what our declared beliefs, bias lives in all of us. The disparities that plague our nation are perpetuated, even by those of us who believe in equality for all.
How do we further understand, or start to address, this disturbing incongruity? No one has all the answers. But we do know two things. First, each of us has a responsibility to recognize and to question our own tendencies, our own beliefs. To raise awareness of this oftentimes hidden problem, the Ad Council is launching the “Love Has No Labels” campaign in partnership with a collaboration of brands and leading nonprofits. We are asking you to visit here where you can take a quiz to examine and challenge your own beliefs and perceptions. The website will connect you to our partner nonprofits where you can better identify bias, learn how to address it, speak up against prejudice and be a role model.
We also know that we can take inspiration from sharing the stories of those for whom love is truly blind: love that is blind to race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, and ability. Help us to shine a light on implicit bias. Do your part. Speak out. Share this video. Tell your own story. Help us to replace bias with a love of humanity defined by understanding and the embracing of differences. I hope you will do your part.
After all, love has no labels.