Cutting Along The Bias

Louise and I caught up one mundane Monday evening to celebrate our birthdays, and in line with November’s theme, I took that opportunity to ask about how knowing me has impacted Louise’s perceptions of TCK’s (third culture kids).

It is with a little embarrassment that I admit I walked into that exchange with some preconceived notions. I'm sure at certain points I may have asked some leading questions to subconsciously influence the direction of Louise’s responses too. Fortunately, I realised my own biases as a TCK during the course of the interview and had time to self-reflect on our conversation after dinner. The embarrassment is owing to the fact that I know Louise is a passionate social advocate with a strong stance on human rights and has a diverse circle of friends – yet a small part of my brain assumed that meeting me must have “opened up” a new vista into the multicultural landscape that Louise is already so familiar and comfortable with.

Louise comes from Wangaratta, a rural town that is far from monocultural. She currently resides in Flemington, a very multicultural suburb which is well-known for its ethnic and socioeconomic diversity. And yet, I still asked Louise about how “someone like myself” influenced her ideas of TCK’s. Louise graciously pointed out that she innately refuses to let ethnicity and religion colour her first impression of anyone, and that she strongly advocates against an unconscious bias of any kind (exactly the kind I found myself demonstrating).

My after-dinner introspection uncovered that my own views of Anglo-Saxon Australians were shaped by my peer group in university, even though I know their ideas were by no means indicative of everyone’s views and sentiments. Louise calmly asserted that she knew enough not to paint all cultures and religions with one brush and that she was already incredibly culturally aware owing to her upbringing, work, travel, and circle of friends.

Did Louise think the majority of Australians had the same views? Her response was refreshing. She mentioned that in this day and age with open access to information, most people would have a good awareness of contributions that TCK’s and migrants have made to various spheres, whether they openly acknowledge it or not. I applaud Louise’s matter-of-fact optimism, and I caught myself hoping that most Australians shared Louise's views.

The conversation with Louise was heartening. It brought to the light the fact that despite the media’s scrutiny of migrants and TCK’s, a number of people are refusing to let their opinion be swayed by the negative rhetoric and instead are choosing to form their own opinions untainted by unconscious bias. It also made me examine my own strongly held beliefs with a sense of irony as the flaws in my views were exposed (providing me with further self-reflection material for the next few weeks). It is exchanges like these I will continue to engage in with my loved ones, as they keep me grounded and humble, and grateful for the warmth and understanding that surround me in what is a landscape fraught with challenges but also novel opportunities for personal growth for all.