Yesterday, my wife and I ended our night by scrolling through Netflix to find something to watch that was not named Tiger King (we might get to it eventually, calm down). My wife wanted to check out this “reality show” type show called 100 Humans, which is basically just a small scale test of many different questions we have about the human species. A lot of it was about debunking myths, like which biological sex takes longer to get ready (the men took longer in their study) and which age group is the best (20s won but 60s took second).
To be honest, a lot of the studies seemed skewed in one way or another and the small scale of only 100 humans doesn’t prove anything. For instance, in the test about potential racial biases, the humans are at a shooting range and told that they are testing reflexes. People appear in the shooting range two at a time, one holding a gun and the other a cell phone, with the goal being to shoot each person with a gun and not shoot the people with cell phones. The last pairing, a white man and a black man, appear at the same time and both have cell phones, so the test is designed to reveal any innate racial biases. True to theory, the unarmed black man was shot much more often than the white man, which is statistically consistent with other studies. The problem I had is that the black man had a red shirt on while the white man had an aqua shirt, Since red is often a signal for danger and also cognitively triggers a more aggressive response, I think that played a large role in the outcome, which was quite lopsided.
But there was one test that still bothers me today because I made the same assumptions that all but one of the humans made. That is what this post is about.
In this test, the human met six people, three men and three women, listened to a brief background about each, then was assigned the task of being a matchmaker and pairing the best possible couples. The human was allowed to ask one question of each person before making his or her decision. The catch is that all six of the people were a relationship with another one of those six, so the test would reveal just how good a matchmaker each human was.
The first human they showed was a guy about my age and he asked good questions of each person, wondering what each person looked for in a partner and trying to figure out deal breakers. In the end, he made the same decision that I did – male 1 with female 3, male 2 with female 2, and male 3 with female 1. I didn’t expect to get it right, but there was one crucial question that I forgot to ask which threw the whole thing off for me; in fact, not one of the humans asked it either…
What is your sexual orientation?
When the true couple were revealed, there was a gay couple, a straight couple, and a lesbian couple. My jaw dropped as I realized that I never even considered that possibility. I automatically assumed my worldview and I saw them through my biases. Never once did I question the lenses I was looking through because I didn’t realize they were there.
The reason this cut so deep into my psyche is that I like to think that I am aware of my biases. I’ve come to realize that the world doesn’t operate the way that I see it. Different people from different backgrounds see the world differently – none of us have a monopoly on the truth. There are things that each of us doesn’t understand and being aware of these biases, whether those be due to race, gender, class, religion, upbringing, etc, is very important for growth and development.
Being so blind to this bias made me wonder how many other blinders I’m wearing right now. What else am I missing because of who I am? What am I inclined to think simply because that’s how I’ve been conditioned. What “truth” do I cling to is actually a lie formed by my culture?
Obviously, the answers to those questions is “I don’t know!” I wish I did and I will continue looking for them, but it remains that I will never get rid of all my biases. I am limited by my humanity, my temporality, and my spaciality. I will never see the world through objective eyes – for only God can have that potential. So what is there to do?
I will start by closing my eyes. We live by faith and not by sight. We see now only dimly, as if looking through tinted glass. By closing my eyes, I am more open to listening. I can hear the voices of those telling me where I am wrong or where I have come up short. Most of all, I can listen to the voice of God telling me where to walk, so when I finally open my eyes again, I may see things that I never could have imagined before. This begins by not trusting my eyes, but having faith and listening for the movement of the Spirit.