By Ellen Davis-Walker
“bias is inevitable but can be addressed”
Of all of the takeaways from our workshop (Wednesday the 20th of February) this was perhaps the most recurrent piece of feedback, and the key message we would pass on to all readers of this blog! When thinking about the sort of workshops needed to challenge unconscious racial bias, Dr Veronique and I were keen to emphasise need for tolerance, respect and acceptance: a mutual understanding that prejudices in some form or another are an inherent part of how we see, and process the world. What is important is how we chose to act and respond when we find ourselves in situations where biases (of any form) play out in front of us.
In the first half of the workshop participants were introduced to the concept of unconscious racial (and gender) bias through a series of talks and structured group activities from organisers. We were also lucky enough to be joined by Dr Issa Robson, who was able to draw on her own first hand experiences as a BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) student and member of staff. The second half of the workshop was dedicated to role play activities designed to help participants reflect on questions of intersectionality and identity with the aim (as one participant phrased it) to hold up “a mirror to myself and how to challenge [my identity] more”.
Although these sorts of exercises can make for hard (and sometimes emotionally draining) work, the enthusiasm and openness of the participants made the workshop a joy to be part of. One participant commented that they felt “more confident and empowered to call things out” after just two hours!
Based on this wonderfully positive feedback, we hope very much that workshops on unconscious bias and prejudice will eventually be a mandatory part of training and staff induction, allowing for a wide range of voices and stories to be listened to and acted on. For now, at least, we are very grateful to everyone who made the 2019 Festival of Creative Learning so enriching and we look forward to seeing what 2020 has in store.