Learning Culture Mindset
Systemic bias is the construction and rationalization of ideas used to justify structures and policies that serve the need for power and control over others. Dr. King mentioned civic engagement as a weapon over systemic bias. Civic engagement is less about preserving democracy than about giving the system context. Democracy in the United States has always been an incomplete albeit aspirational experiment. The concept has changed greatly to encompass expansions and contractions in terms of representativeness, accountability, and participation. Racial identity began during a period of contraction. The concept was developed as a series of social categories which have impacts on power and agency in every aspect of our lives. Race and identity politics have material and practical implications for the lives of those who have been assigned racial categories at the losing end of the spectrum of power.
The pandemic has revealed the consequences of our hegemonic society. The current social justice protests have attempted to shift the biased standard for which society determines the conditions of those in power. Societal attempts to shape worldviews, ideas, and experiences were designed to maintain the power for our ingrained democratic system which subsequently affords unequal privilege to white individuals. Change has proven extremely difficult over time and always encounters resistance from the establishment.
To enact lasting change society must first address the remnants of racism that permeate our institutions. We must recognize and acknowledge the current effects of past discrimination and racism. This starts with the admission and understanding that racism still exists, followed by an acknowledgment that racism also represents “a function of social and institutional power that has created racial prejudice,”. Racial discrimination is a learned behavior! As such, corporations cannot overcome racism from attending professional development workshops. The key to changing this one-sided system is through a concerted, educational, fact-based campaign. Each of us must commit to continuous learning geared toward equality. Author Peter Senge in his book “The Fifth Discipline” unpacks systems thinking and identifies fixed mindsets that impede individuals from deep unlearning and learning. Fixed mindsets consist of beliefs, assumptions and views that shape our listening and alert our defense mechanisms. Senge’s solution to fixed thinking is the development of continuous learning. In Senge’s book, he romanticizes continuous learning from a societal view as a place where everyone holds hands and recites spiritual chants. However, effective continuous learning comes from self-actualization. Only then can people naturally adapt, engage, and become involved in the kind of growth that increases capabilities and awareness. Only then can we unlearn, and dissolve fixed thinking patterns.
Western culture requires instructions or rules of engagement when attempting monumental societal adjustments. I suggest a detailed consent decree which deconstructs and rebuilds our societal discourse. This consent decree would guide us as we shift from knowing to learning which is critical to cultivating a mindset that embraces differences.