Overcoming biases

Cst. Khoa Hoang

It wasn’t that long ago that popular belief and scientists held the view that biology played a role in separating races of people – that people of various ethnicities were viewed as being fundamentally different from one another.

Not only was everyone physically different, but so was their behaviour, belief and even intelligence.

Clearly, we must have been made vastly different from one another. This theory created a great vehicle for racism, bigotry and allowed everyone to stereotype each other without remorse.

I remember as a child in the late 1980s being given extra math homework work because I was “born with it.” Well, let me tell you something, this little Asian boy hates math like a dirty cruiser on a nice summer day and dropped out of physics class in high school.

But the world was also flat once.

Recent breakthroughs in the mapping of human genome challenged what we thought was true. Today’s scientists have confirmed that all human beings share 99.9 per cent of the same DNA coding, regardless of ethnicity or sexual orientation with the exception of identical twins who share 100 per cent of their genetic makeup. We are all virtually identical to one another . . . scary, I know!

There’s not much separating all of us except for individual perceptions, full of personal biases and experiences that skew the very lens we view the world through. Like a binocular, we easily focus on the negative differences with a tunnel vision that blocks out the obvious. We are the same.

Fear of the unknown can prevent us from understanding each other. And in the absence of understanding, we use the limited knowledge we have to assume and pass inaccurate judgments on each other. It’s what we do best; convince ourselves that we know the unknown.

As a non-religious person who simply lives by the playground code to treat others the way he wants to be treated, I’ve worked hard to educate myself about religion because I felt it was important. I’ve spent a lot of time taking religion courses to satisfy my curiosity, and have been to prayer sessions in temples, churches, mosques and synagogues.

Whether you believe in Christ, practice scriptures of the Torah or follow the Qur’an, all religions share a similar history of suffering and promote strong foundations of humility to become the best person you can be. The holiday season is an excellent time to meet your neighbours and learn something new.

The Mere Exposure Theory states that the more you’re exposed to someone, the more positive you associate that person. Truth is we all want what’s best for our families, but the trick is to include each other under that umbrella. I’ve often challenged others to spend less time focusing on the 0.1 per cent, and more time acknowledging our similarities and commonalities which make up 99.9 per cent of who we are.

We all need a sense of belonging and purpose. So as soon as we can overcome our biases, there lies a vast opportunity to work together in a symbiotic relationship that is equally beneficial to everyone. It takes real effort for us not to judge a book by its cover, to show patience to those who are impatient, and to commit to a New Year’s resolution that benefits others.

Every shoplifter I’ve arrested had money to pay for the item and many homeless people I’ve spoken to had been successful at some point in their lives.

I’m certainly no different and often reminded by those who know me best that my path into policing was quite a pleasant surprise. I too had many opportunities to become trapped within the pitfalls of adolescence and peer pressures.

So from my family to yours, have a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and a wonderful New Year.