World Trust

Addressing Unconscious Bias Tip #4: Use the Arts to Connect

Posted by Adwoa Gyimah-Brempong on October 7, 2014


One of the strongest perpetuators of the system of racial inequity is unconscious bias. As diversity trainers and educators, it is crucial to find ways to interrupt this bias so as to pave the way for change.

Transformative learning asks adult learners to engage in critical reflection on their experiences and learned beliefs, for the purpose of deconstructing embedded assumptions about how the world works. 

At World Trust, we have found that transformative learning is the perfect pedagogy for addressing unconscious bias. In our latest series, we'll look at six elements that can be included in your diversity activities, harnessing the power of transformative learning to combat unconscious bias.

Use the Arts to Connect: Multiple modalities offer layers of depth and texture.
The power of the arts in learning is the ability to offer a different kind of experience. The creative experience deepens the lived experience, expanding our view of who we are in relationship to each other. The arts allow us to access our shared power of innovation, bypassing the conscious mind and invoking the looser, more associative riches of the imagination.

Understanding a Banana
We can explain what a banana is – a long fruit that is yellow and sweet, with a thick peel – to give someone a sense of it. However, touching, smelling, and tasting a banana will increase our understanding and expand on the description offered by someone else. The richness offered by the arts is another way we can override unconscious bias, which consists of a lot of half-built ideas (like the ideas we had about the banana) with no experiential knowledge to back it up.

In the Racial Equity Learning module Building Community in Our Schools, participants are introduced to the art of Colombian sculptor Doris Salcedo, courtesy of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Her work memorializes the disappeared (victims of the brutal Colombian Civil War) in large-scale installations of old, unpaired shoes placed in niches around a room.

This particular module is designed to build community among teachers, parents and administrators in K-12 schools. Through reflection and group dialogue, participants relate Salcedo's message to their own experience or that of others in their lives. When someone drops out of school or is taken off to jail, even killed, that disappearance leaves a hole in the community.

The Takeaway
The arts offer a rich toolbox for inquiry, connection, and transcending the established boundaries of what we think we know about ourselves and the world. This richness makes them a powerful tool for diversity workshop engagement. cross-cultural understanding of universal experiences and themes.

Want to learn more about our Racial Equity Learning Modules? For more information, please click here. Curious about the rest of the tips in this series? Download them all for free below!

Download "Addressing Unconscious Bias" from World Trust