Bias: The enemy of Justice?
‘People exercise an unconscious selection in being influenced.’- T. S. Elliot
As a Bachelor(ette) of Honours in History, it is easy to assume that every bias exists primarily due to events in History. Religion, economic status and political views are often handed to us by our parents; how many people transcend the status they were born into? In accepting that bias is also potentially affected by personality, present situation and a lack of thought, I couldn’t help but wonder: is bias intrinsic to human nature? Can we educate ourselves above bias? How far does bias hinder the journey to justice?
The first question to address in understanding bias is: what causes it? To establish a difference between bias and belief, it is worth noting that a bias is defined as an unconscious repeated loyalty, based on predisposition rather than logic. Wherever bias lurks, can we ever be sure that a claim is purely just? In order for justice to be applied, so must logic; where do we draw the line?
Over the course of history, the effects of bias are evident. Racial bias, demonstrated in the colonization of nations, the Atlantic slave trade and older slave regimes. Sexual bias: most feminists are female, and many women fought and still fight against feminism. Financial bias: Bias keeps old money in power and fights against democratic change, sure. What we seldom recognize is that bias lingers in those fighting for change, and can hinder it.
Mary Wollstonecraft; the first feminist. After reading all her work for a dissertation (sleep deprivation is never fun), it is clear that she deemed herself a fighter for equality, on all plains. Although she wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, which can be argued to have set the scene for the Suffragettes and later feminist action, her work was littered with bias. 18th Century, British bias. Her establishment of national character, the ‘French’ being one way, and the ‘Swedish’ being another, hindered her argument. She placed value judgement on peoples, based on their nationality, throughout her work. Is bias an unconscious demon?
The human race may always be subject to bias; is it a case for science? No person can ever truly relate to the ‘other side’ of divides that we create. Politics, race, sex, financial status; these are a few examples of persistent bias despite modernity. Sometimes conscious, mostly unconscious. Bias thrives off several sources: historical tradition, situational disposition and teaching, but we have not yet found a cure.
What is your bias?
Writer/History BA (Hons)