Subjective Bias is Kicking Our Asses

(Photo Credit: Dmitry Ratushny from Unsplash.com)

Welcome to February 2022. A month filled with geopolitical tension, NFT conferences, classified documents being found at Mar-A-Lago, anti-Blackness, Queen Elizabeth II testing positive for COVID-19, Canadian caravans, and even Rihanna’s pregnancy. I hope you brought popcorn.

This month has been a strange one, filled with problems mostly rooting in subjective biases. We all have them. Our power however lies in our ability to interrogate the strength of these biases within ourselves. This is what generates social progress.

Below are events this month that I found most interesting, disturbing, and qualified to write about. I also want to stress, these are numbered for the sake of creative flow, and not by importance.

1) Tucker Carlson’s allegation that AOC is white, while simultaneously sexualizing her (on international television)

Last weekend, everyone’s least favorite “political analyst” Tucker Carlson randomly decided that U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) was pretending to be a woman of color, and in fact, she is “secretly” an entitled white woman named Sandy Cortez.

I already knew Tucker was not exactly the most rational apple in the orchard, but come on. The paychecks from FOX NEWS have got to be big, because they literally just make up whatever they want over there. My assesment of the network is not exactly news, pun intended.

Here’s where it gets worse, Tucker decides to then sexualize AOC after his inaccurate accusation of her being white. See both moments below:

One of the things I love most about Representative Ocasio-Cortez, is her fearlessness on calling out the blatant racism, sexism, and misogyny that she faces from the media, in New York, and Washington. She is a woman of agency who is not afraid of anyone. AOC, in my opinion is an underrated political gem.

One thing is for sure, Tucker is a bizarre man parading as a journalist, and anyone who watches FOX for the sake of belief, and not comedic relief or oppositional information gathering is a contrarian. But we’ve known that for long time.

2) What the hell is happening in higher education?

Over the last few years, we have seen several egregious missteps in the academy, including the non-tenuring of Dr. Lorgia García-Peña at Harvard, and Dr. Nikole Hannah-Jones at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Now we are seeing history repeat itself with the recent announcement that Dr. Michael W. Kraus of the Yale School of Management was also denied tenure.

Again, what is going on? It is very discouraging to see an Afro-Latina, a Black American, and an Asian American who are leading their respective fields (race/ethnic studies, journalism, social psychology, gender studies, etc), recieve refusals of tenure. The word on these campus streets is that Kraus has over 10,000 citations! What else does he need to prove after cementing himself as a leading expert?

The truth is, Kraus’ denial is not about what he has yet to prove or accomplish.

Tenure is sadly not about quality of work, so much as likability, and how you fit into the ecosystem of that given department at that specific university. Michael Kraus knows that because his work interrogates social inequality his professorship at Yale is even more political than your average scholar. Kraus exposes the shortcomings of society via subjective bias, at a top 10 business school. This is amazing and powerful scholarship. This also makes him a threat to the status quo.

Nikole Hannah-Jones now works at Howard University, where she is the inaugural Knight Chair for the Center for Journalism and Democracy. García-Peña now teaches at the Department of Studies in Race, Colonialism, and Diaspora at Tufts University. Kraus, on the other hand, is appealing his denial of tenure at Yale.

Like Hannah-Jones and García-Peña, he has a village of scholars behind him. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out. My suspicion, is that other universities are already privately contacting him with counter packages that include tenure in order to steal him away from or within the Ivy League.

3) The racial purity testing of Miami Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel

Where do I begin? First, you have the Dolphins hiring McDaniel as a cleanup job for Brian Flores. Mike McDaniel has never hid the fact that his father is Black, and his mother is white. But the fact that the Dolphins used his heritage as a bare minimum metric to say they implemented the Rooney Rule, feels wrong.

This is unfair to Mike. It means his coaching abilities were considered secondarily to his Blackness. McDaniel himself says that he “identifies as a human being, who happens to have a dad who is Black.” This was a PR nightmare for his sake, because many people were upset with this remark. Why would he not call his father human, too?

I choose to believe Mike sees his father as human. I suspect that Mike’s gaffe was because he was under media pressure as a first time coach. I believe he was trying to say that he has not experienced the same levels of racism that his father has, or his mother has for being married to his dad. Thus why he leaned on the privilege of being able to choose how to identify.

Pictured: Miami Dolphins Head Coach Mike McDaniel (Photo Credit: Sporting News/NFL)

Not only does this make sense, but even if it doesn’t to you, too bad. This is his truth. Was it said perfectly? No. But he’s there to coach football, not be the Dolphins race relations representative. McDaniel’s appearance allows a fanbase in the CRT-phobic State of Florida to remain calm, while the Dolphins get to pound their chests in the name of diversity.

The emphasis on his heritage by the media proves it was the driving point by the Dolphins in his hiring. This is textbook colorism and interracial/mixed race fetishization. The rapper Logic (who looks a bit like McDaniel), has also spoken in the past, about how many people do not see him as Black.

There are mixed Black people like myself, Tracee Ellis Ross, or Colin Kaepernick, who primarily identify as Black. This is because of how we present phenotypically, and our lived experiences. There are also mixed Black people like Drake, who is from Toronto and thus grew up with the liberty to embrace both of his cultures. And then there are mixed Black people like Nicole Ritchie, Wentworth Miller, or Mike McDaniel who do not phenotypically appear Black.

ALL OF THESE PEOPLE, still are in fact still Black, however. Blackness of any type, is not a monolithic experience. Much of the fuss on McDaniel is rooted in colorism in proximity to whiteness, and racial purist political policy. These topics are each their own essay, if not a disseration.

USA Today columnist Mike Freeman said it best:

“He doesn’t owe anyone an explanation on his Blackness.”

4) The trucker convoys of Canada

I arrived in Canada not too long ago, but I’ve been alive long enough to know the smell of bull-jive. These past few weeks the Canada has shown its underbelly, represented by a group of frustrated people on the fringes. Here in Calgary, caravan supporters of have been disturbing my peace in my neighborhood, in the name of “freedom,” every Saturday — for the last month. I could not imagine being in Ottawa.

I understand “freedom of speech” and somewhat even this gross misuse of “bodily autonomy” rights. When applied ethically, these are things I too believe in. I also find it disturbing that the idea of “promoting the general welfare,” has been completely overlooked by so many people in this pandemic.

It’s one thing to have vaccine hesitancy, or to even be frustrated by wearing masks. Those are human feelings. Human feelings are real and often natural. But they are also often rooted in subjective bias. Again, we must continually question and challenge the ideologies within ourselves.

When we reached the point that families of Ottawa are unable to get sleep because their peace is being disturbed for week after week, that person is not promoting general welfare. They’re promoting the opposite. It’s okay to be uncomfortable or restless. It is never okay to antagonize other people’s livelihoods while openly disregarding public health.

One thing’s for sure, I hope I never see a Canadian flag waving alongside the flag of the Third Reich or Confederate States of America again. That was just cringe.

Where do we go from here?

I don’t have the answer. Does anyone? I do know that I wish that people would try and start with science-based truth, while centering kindness.

Subjective bias is kicking our asses.

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Chris L. Butler

Chris L. Butler

African American & Dutch writer living in Canada. Author of 2 chapbooks: ‘Sacrilegious’ and ‘BLERD: ’80s BABY, ’90s KID’. 🇺🇸🇳🇱🇨🇦