Implicit Biases in the Media

We recently examined the roles of race and gender in leadership, our implicit biases, and the need to conduct often uncomfortable conversations about these topics. The media has a significant impact on our views of race and gender and begins shaping our views at a very early age.  We are no longer influenced only by what we watch on TV, but we (especially younger generations) are extremely influenced by social media. Fortunately, some of these difficult conversations are occurring in large media formats and time will tell how much of an impact they have on our society.

Last year’s Oscar ceremony sparked backlash for only nominating white actors or actresses in the top four acting categories. Immediately following the nomination announcements, #OscarsSoWhite began trending on Twitter. Racism in Hollywood became a heated topic with some demanding reform while others questioning the use of the term racism. As the host, Chris Rock addressed these issues in his opening monologue and described Hollywood as racist, but not the racist people typically imagine (about 5 minutes in). His description of the implicit biases prevalent in Hollywood forced members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to address these concerns and make changes to their nomination process. Reviews of Rock’s hosting performance were mostly positive and highlighted his ability to use comedy to make people feel uncomfortable and think critically about implicit racial biases in Hollywood.

In addition to racial biases in the media, we also find gender biases. The recent movement to #AskHerMore was created by The Representation Project. Journalists and reporters are encouraged to ask celebrity women more engaging questions than “who/what are you wearing?” Many female celebrities are asking why their red carpet conversations are dominated by fashion and appearance whereas male celebrities are asked more about their careers and accomplishments. The Representation Project wants to change this image and encourage all celebrities, but especially women, to use their time on the red carpet to highlight their achievements as well as the organizations or causes they support. The belief behind this movement is to use the media to positively influence young girls to make a difference and strive for greater achievements.

Although the media continues to promote racial and gender biases, conversations are beginning to make small changes. We need to start similar conversations in our schools to address our biases. As we continue on our leadership journeys, we need to examine the following questions for ourselves and encourage our followers to do the same: What are our biases? Where do they come from? How can we address them? How do these biases impact our school community? Only after recognizing these biases and having open communication can we begin to make changes that are needed to support all families and faculty members.

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