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Understanding ‘The Bias Inside Us’

The Weidner Center for the Performing Arts opens an interactive social science and psychology exhibit in partnership with the Smithsonian

By John McCracken

‘The Bias Inside Us’ features Spanish photographer Angélica Dass’ Humanae project, which reflects on the color of skin that challenges the concept of race. Photo courtesy of the Science Museum of Minnesota

A division of one of the country’s largest archives of cultural and historical items is partnering with UW-Green Bay to facilitate community conservations around bigotry and social sciences.

The Bias Inside Us, a traveling, community engagement project developed by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Services (SITES) and UW-Green Bay’s Multi-Ethnic Student Affairs Office (MESA) and the Weidner Center for the Performing Arts, is a hands-on exhibit where visitors can unpack implicit human biases.

Created by psychologists Mahzarin R. Banaji of Harvard University and Anthony G. Greenwald, professor emeritus at the University of Washington, the exhibit is informed by the duo’s 2013 book Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People, which explores gender, race, social class and disability biases in different cultures.

“We’re kind of in one of these moments in time where I think there’s a critical awareness of the fact that ‘Oh, we’ve got some systemic problems that are really being driven by bias,” Weidner Center Executive and Artistic Director Kelli Strickland said.

The exhibition is divided into six sections, which include topics such as The Science of Bias, Bias in Real Life, Serious Consequences—Bias is All Around Us, #RetrainYourBrain and Personal Reflection.

The Bias Inside Us features photography from Spanish photographer Angélica Dass, whose work focuses on skin colors through various displayed portraits. The exhibit also focuses on bias and prejudice created by automated systems such as artificial intelligence.

“More and more our world is being populated with things that are learning from us and then getting better at their function,” Strickland said. “So this is just a way to sort of enter into that conversation of ‘What is bias? How do I check it?.”

Strickland said the goals of UW-Green Bay and the Weidner Center directly aligned with having this exhibit on campus, free and accessible to the greater Green Bay area.

“It aligns really strongly with who UW Green Bay is attempting to be in our community,” Strickland said.

Strickland said apart from the importance of the exhibit’s topics, the exhibit features a lot of interactive elements, from buttons to push to videos to watch. Strickland said she hopes community members who visit and engage with The Bias Inside Us come out of the experience with a greater awareness of bias.

“It is possible to be a very kind, well-intentioned human being and still have bias,” Strickland said, we do, and on the face of it, bias in and of itself is not a good or a bad thing. It comes from our need to belong. It’s a result of these evolutionary survival shortcuts.”

After the exhibit ends, UW-Green Bay and MESA have partnered with community groups to keep the conversation going around bias in the community. In February, the Weidner Center will host a discussion on the Freedom Riders and the Civil Rights movement.

“UW-Green Bay is honored to have been selected by the Smithsonian to host this The Bias Inside Us exhibit and wants to reach as many communities as possible,” UW-Green Bay MESA Diversity Director Mai Lo Lee said in a statement. “Keep the Conversation Going is a regional collaborative effort with events across multiple cities, colleges and community centers to both create more dialogue, more learning and to give deeper impact to The Bias Inside Us exhibit.”

The Bias Inside Us begins on Saturday, Jan. 15 and goes through Feb. 13. More information about the exhibit and Keep The Conversation Going events can be found here.

John McCracken is the Editor of Green Bay City Pages. You can reach him via email at [email protected] or on Twitter @jmcjmc451.

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