What If We Treated School Bias & Inequity Like a Virus?

Dr. Kimberly McLeod | 3/13/2020, 1:33 p.m.
If bias and inequity were treated like a virus, a contagion that spreads from person to person without regard to …

If bias and inequity were treated like a virus, a contagion that spreads from person to person without regard to race, religion, income, learning difference, language, accent, and residence would schools be different? Bias is contagious. Like a virus, it spreads and in its wake, leaves behind learners, families and communities that cease to thrive because of they have been infected by dysfunctional biases, beliefs, stereotypes and cultural unconsciousness. The virus becomes deadly when those that are carriers or transmitters of the cultural contagion belief the faulty biases to be true, valid and then accept them as normal or business as usual.

Is there a vaccine, or a cure? Is there some way to contain the contagion of bias and inequity from spreading from person to person, from school to school, from community to community? We would all like for that answer to be YES. Some people will respond effectively to culturally conscious practices and become or remain contagion free. As for others, they will continue to spread the virus and should be quarantined from serving in any capacity that deals with people.

3 Steps (taken from science) to stop the spread of bias and inequity as if it were a virus.

1. Weaken the virus: Weaken bias by embracing a positive identity formation. Help children, and some adults, fall in love with the skin they are in, the language they speak and the body they were born with. A healthy immune system is prepared to fight a virus. A healthy self-identity is prepared to deflect stereotypes, bias and any dysfunctional thinking and behavior. When you genuinely love yourself, it’s hard for anyone to make you hate yourself – for any reason. Loving ourselves is a learned behavior we are taught, as is hating ourselves. Weaken the virus by infusing self- love. Not everyone has it, but those that do teach our children how to love themselves – authentically.

2. Inactivate the virus: In science, using this strategy, viruses are completely inactivated (or killed) with a chemical. By killing the virus, it cannot possibly reproduce itself or cause disease. We inactivate the virus of bias by undressing the lie and celebrating the truth. You can be black and beautiful at the same time. You don’t have divorce your blackness in order to be accepted as beautiful. You can be brilliant and bilingual, multilingual. You don’t have to hide your accent or separate yourself from your native language in order for your brilliance to be accepted. You can be classified as low socio-economic and identified as gifted at the same time. Poverty in the pocket, doesn’t mean you aren’t wealthy in mindset, value and love. Many, many people who have changed the course of history were impoverished. Kill the virus by exposing the truth of the resilient nature of people of all cultures, races, languages, incomes and ability levels. They exist, let their lives tell the story of truth in the face of bias. The chemical that kills the virus of bias is truth, identify the truth and give it to our children and communities. The truth is, anything is possible for those who believe. Teach the truth and kill the virus.

3. Use part of the bacteria: Lastly, in science, some bacteria cause disease by making a harmful protein called a toxin. Several vaccines are made by taking toxins and inactivating them with a chemical; by inactivating the toxin, it no longer causes disease. Newsflash. Toxic people surround you. Some people don’t even know they are toxic. This step is probably the hardest way to fight the virus of bias. You have to take the toxin and eliminate it with love. Ugh. I know. It’s that “Love your enemies” thing. Here it is, hurt people hurt people. So if we help people “unhurt”, the healing they experience will begin to “unhurt” those around them. When you love yourself, you want others to love themselves just as much as you do. When you feel inadequate, insecure, you infect others with the same feelings you have. Misery indeed loves company. When people hate, it is because there is some part of their own identity or development that has taught them in order to feel valued, you have to devalue someone else; or in order to rise, you have to make someone else fall. In order to feel powerful, you have to create fear. In order to feel loved, you have to make someone hate someone else, or hate himself or herself so they can give all the love to you; or in order to shine, you have to dim everyone else’s light. You know who this person is as an adult, but the dysfunction started as a child. Bullies are just as damaged as the harm they cause to others. Love your enemies, is not an easy pill to swallow, but those that have effectively embodied step 1, cannot be bullied mentally, or physically. They are in the best position to help “unhurt” toxic people. In Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl after living in the horrors of a concentration camp says this, “everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms -- to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way. The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance.” It is not easy to choose love sometimes, but it is a choice. It is a choice that can deactivate toxicity.

Dr. Kimberly McLeod is a 25-year education professional, counselor, motivational speaker and an expert consultant in the field of cultural responsiveness. To learn more about Dr. Kimberly visit www.CreativeEnergy.co. Connect with Dr. McLeod on Twitter @mcleodkr, FB/drkmcleod, Linkedin/KimberlyMcLeod or email DrKMcLeod@gmail.com. Share this story online at www.stylemagazine.com.