Words that express concepts
We may have heard the words equity, diversity and inclusion much more often than ever lately. They are “trendy”. . . We can see many groups around the globe emphasizing the importance of having policies and strategies at various levels related to these words; which are roughly defined as three distinct but closely intertwined values that refer to be supportive of different groups of individuals, including people of different races, ethnicities, religions, abilities, genders, and sexual orientations. Organizations in several parts of the world are now striving to be more diverse, equitable, and inclusive.
The question, nonetheless, is if this is being more a convenient stance or an honest one. If we are genuinely being able to not only be aware but also reduce our unconscious bias of the stereotypes we have about certain groups of people; when it may seem we have perpetuated discriminatory and hierarchical power patterns based on race, ethnicity, religion, gender, wealth; patterns that have led to oppress those who are “different”.
The social unease we are witnessing in different regions of the globe may suggest we are living an erosion of trust and an increased division and prejudice not only regarding race or ethnicity; but against those who do not share our opinions, beliefs and habits, those who do not think like us. It seems our conscious and unconscious biases may have locked ourselves in a world shaped only by our beliefs, representations and customs. . . So, if we want to use the words equity, diversity and inclusion as a vehicle to express an honest and genuine stance; we need to truly overcome our prejudices. We need to reduce our unconscious bias.
An unconscious bias is a prejudice made on the basis of our prior experience, our own personal deeply rooted assumptions, interpretations or thought patterns, our beliefs system, that influence our mental constructions in favor of or against one thing, person or group. Unconscious biases generate “automatic thoughts”.
The problem is when those constructions are the consequence of mental distortions about our clinging to what we think is superior, better, “normal”, and our aversion to what does not fit in those labels. These mental distortions cloud the mind, hindering us to apprehend the truth, as it is expressed by the word klesha.
Klesha is a Sanskrit word that refers to conditioning factors or mental afflictions that inhibit our ability to see things as they really are. Often referred as mental veils too. The meaning of the world klesha is really profound, and there are many kinds of kleshas, but there are three identified as the root or source of all other mental afflictions, of our negative discriminatory processes; which are ignorance, attachment and aversion. However, these mental distortions can be questioned and transformed; we can always dismantle our own thoughts and biases. In order to do this, we need training.
We all have biases, but also, we do have the capacity to deconstruct them. By training the mind, we can observe ourselves and be aware of them, understand their logic, distinguishing between what we know from a fact or from what we think we know; with practice, we can dismantle them. This requires a clear mind; a pure, free and serene balance, unaffected by our multiple intellectual constructs, a mind that allows us to dive into the depth of our being and restore our child’s ability to wonder, free from biases and prejudices. We can repeatedly question if our decisions or attitudes are not biased by our emotional distress or prejudices, and we can truly, from our hearts, cultivate an ethos of kindness towards all beings.