July 15, 2018 | ° F

Biases are intrinsic yet recognizable

Students at UCLA bar Jewish girl from serving on judicial board


Society is constantly forcing us to define ourselves. When we fill out a form, we check off our races. When we use public bathrooms, we define our gender, and when we stay in Rutgers libraries past 10 p.m., we have to identify ourselves as students. Through this process of forced self-identification, we begin to hold on to these characteristics: Those traits define us and eventually contribute to our biases. Everyone has biases — some are valid, and others are fruitless. But determining what these biases mean rests with the individuals around us. A student at the University of California, Los Angeles can relate to how biases in the 21st century are interpreted.

Rachel Beyda, a sophomore at UCLA, was being questioned in an effort to receive a confirmation to the Undergraduate Student Association Council’s Judicial Board. During this documented process, Bedya was asked about her religious affiliations. She belongs to a Jewish sorority as well as Hillel. The students questioning her wanted to know how Bedya would be “able to maintain an unbiased view” if she was appointed. Eventually the students voted "no" for Bedya, choosing not to let her on to the board. The student council’s faculty advisor eventually asserted to the board that Bedya’s affiliations with Jewish organizations would not hinder her ability to conduct business on the council. She was then confirmed to the board.

The case of Bedya’s questioning is very indicative of this generation’s idea of what is personal and what is everyone else’s business. Intertwined with the necessity to constantly define oneself, social media, blogs and the pursuit of political correctness has broken down barriers of privacy and given way to a flood of transparency. Outside of being forced to define ourselves through daily choices, individuals also choose to define themselves by liking pictures, joining organizations and posting statuses. Upon birth, everyone is assigned a race and a gender. Regardless of whether or not we decide to adhere to these given labels, we are actively making a choice to define ourselves as this or that. The process continues as we grow up and form social, political and religious affiliations. So in a society where individuals have no choice but to pick between labels, there is an overarching assumption that people are unable to put aside their biases when acting on behalf of an institution or organization.

Has society become so obsessed with political correctness that having biases are a fatal flaw in any situation? It’s clear that no one can truly be objective in any situation. Humans are being asked to be stoic and emotionless. Biases will sway or deter decisions no matter what. However, when individuals take on a board position or are elected to an office, their actions speak for the credibility of the organization. But to assume that an individual, who has no track record of radically espousing their views, will be unable to represent an organization evenhandedly, is wrong. In acknowledging what biases we have as individuals, we will be able to overcome them. It’s nearly impossible to be unaffiliated with political parties, religious beliefs and social organizations. Therefore, paying attention to inherent biases that everyone has and acting respectfully in reference to them is the most anyone can do. 

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