Host Smita Tharoor asks guests from around the world to share their story and to reflect on their life experiences with unconscious bias.
"We are defined by our narrative, our personal story, our experiences. These have an impact on how we make judgements and form opinions. A lot of time that’s just fine but every once in a while, we make snap conclusions that have a negative outcome either for the other person or ourselves. Just one particular experience can lead to a lifelong belief. That is our unconscious bias."
Jaishree Misra is an author of Indian origin living in Britain. She has written eight novels published by Penguin and Harper Collins. She has also written a non-fiction account of building a writer’s studio on the beach in her home state of Kerala, India. She is a postgraduate in English Literature from Kerala University and has two diplomas from the University of London, one in Broadcast Journalism and the other in Special Education. She has worked in special education, journalism and as a film classifier at the British Board of Film Classification. She lives in London with her husband and daughter. Her daughter, Rohini, is a woman with special needs and specific difficulties with language and communication.
"I tend to assume that people, even my dearest friends, are not that interested in my stories of parenting Rohini. I'm perfectly happy to hear stories of their sons, you know, going off to New York and doing a flash job, or someone else's daughter getting into medical school. And I love those stories, I have not a moments envy or resentment or anything. Because I genuinely enjoy the company of young people, my friends children. So I love those stories. I think I do tend to assume that they might not be as interested in my stories, a little triumph when Rohini came out with a new word. I mean, she's 38, for God's sake, to come out with a new word at the age of 38, I tend to assume would be a little bit embarrassing to announce to the world. So yeah, I hold back."
Jonah Batambuze is a Ugandan-American, multidisciplinary creative, and founder of a community for Black and South Asian people called the Blindian Project.
"For me growing up, the culture, it was you were dating. People dated from when they were like thirteen. Like, my parents met some of my girlfriends, but there was never an expectation that Jonah is going to marry this girl. It was just a part of life, really. Now, I know that my wife, Swetha, didn't grow up like that. What I found is that in the South Asian community, it's not the majority open practice that you just introduce anybody who's your boyfriend or your girlfriend, to your parents. I think for me, it was more of accepting and understanding that me not meeting them within the first couple of months, it wasn't something personal."
Robin Shohet started his therapeutic career in 1976 working in a residential therapeutic community with people who had come out of psychiatric hospitals. He left in 1979 to work freelance as a therapist, supervisor and trainer. He is the author and editor of several books, the latest co-written with his wife, Joan, called In Love with Supervision: Creating Transformative Conversations. He is a student of A Course in Miracles, a book that has had a profound influence on his life.
"As soon as I become Robin and you, Smita, we separate. The analogy I give is, if you look at your hand, and look at the fingers on your hand. Imagine that each finger had consciousness, but had forgotten it was part of the hand. So one finger looks at the other and says, it's bigger than me, I hate it. It's bigger than me, I want to destroy it, compares and everything. Forgetting that it's actually part of a hand. So what we've done is we've got individual consciousness, and forgetting that we're something much bigger. So we're like these fingers that kind of go, he's better than me, all these sources of separation. And we're not actually going to the root cause, which is we've forgotten, we're all part of the hand."
Eliza Griswold is a journalist, poet and contributing writer for the New Yorker. She was awarded the 2019 Pulitzer Prize in nonfiction for her book, Amity and Prosperity: One Family and the Fracturing of America. She’s a distinguished writer in residence at New York University and lives between New York and Philadelphia with her husband and son.
"Basically, what we did is look at how cultures welcomed and and insisted that adolescents include a period of going to the edge of the society. Like coming of age rituals, liminal experience. You know, you get your period, you have to go live in the hut. You've got to, you are encouraged, you are required to encounter meaning at the edges of society, at the edges of civilization. And in American society in the 90s, when I was in college - George Bush - there was no welcoming of the edge whatsoever, you stay as close as you can to the centre, the edge is devalued. And so for me, who was who is a child of the edge, I was terrified..."
Amish Tripathi is a diplomat, author and columnist. He is currently the Director of The Nehru Centre in London, the cultural wing of the Indian High Commission.
Amish was been listed among the 50 most powerful Indians in 2019 by India Today magazine. Forbes India has regularly ranked Amish among the top 100 most influential celebrities in India. In 2014, Amish was also selected as an Eisenhower Fellow, a prestigious American programme for outstanding leaders from around the world.
Amish published his first book in 2010, and has written 9 books to date. His books have sold 5.5 million copies, and have been translated into 10 Indian and 9 international languages.
"One of the things that I keep arguing for in India, is that our ancient traditions are being forgotten, and our ancient wisdom is being forgotten. You see the public square debates in India as well are falling into that same paradigm. There is the right and the left, and you have to prove loyalty to your tribe. And you have to win over the other person. That is not the ancient Indian vada tradition. It's not the ancient Indian debating traditions. And all of this comes from an unconscious bias. It comes from a belief that my truth is the truth."
"I didn't write politically conscious songs or songs that talked about the skin colour of my first child. I didn't write those things, saying, I'm going to change the world and this is how I'm going to do it. I wrote those songs, because that's the way that I felt, like everything that I do with my music. There’s not a disconnection, and it's just a focus on 'how can I market and get my music out'. I write my music the way that I feel. And that's all it is. Because my music is an expression of how I feel as a distinction. It’s not a commodity to be packaged up. And that's what was happening when I was 19, when 'role model' was put on me as a label. The media and the industry infrastructure were trying to craft me into the person that they thought that I should be because I was a brown woman, I was rapping writing my own songs."
Teremoana Rapley currently works as a senior creative economy advisor for the New Zealand local government cultural and economic development agency, Auckland Unlimited. She is a stalwart of the music industry as an award winning singer songwriter. She stepped into the industry at the age of 14 with the politically conscious rap group Upper Hutt Posse and was inducted into New Zealand's Music Hall of Fame in 2018. She has worked in indigenous broadcasting for over two decades gaining over 3000 production credits as an executive producer and many production roles. Teremoana has worked in a community action and development space for the past 30 years with her latest co-created social change initiative focussing on intergenerational and intercultural place-based community building using the arts as the connector.
What a great idea and so well done.
Outstanding, Food for Thought
A very thought provoking and interesting series of stories from different people. Smita asks good questions that facilitate her guests to recall and express their understanding and share their personal experiences of unconscious bias. Keep tuned in to realise how your unconscious bias influences you. I am constantly coming across mine!
Power to change the world.
Such diverse sessions that are filled with depth and challenge you to rethink decisions we make in life on a day to day basis.
Love Smita’s presence and is a very engaging interviewer.