Bias is real and it exists in Bellingham / Facebook post, Joy Gilfilen

neil de grasse tyson11 hrs November 7, 2015  Joy Gilfilen

In this video, the question was asked about whether there was a genetic reason that there are fewer white women in science. Here is an unexpected answer from a black man who points out the very thing that I have experienced as a white woman in business.

Tyson’s comments are illuminative and very well spoken about how pre-assumed, or presumptive bias exists. To our collective detriment.

Bias is real and it exists in Bellingham.

For purposes of education and awareness only, I will explain one way that it happened to me in this election. The details, and whether or not the bias is intentionally targeted against me personally is not the point. Who is right or wrong in the decisions is not the point. The point is that we, the people, each need to grow up in business beyond our complacent habits. Otherwise we will be out-smarted and consumed by the high speed change that is happening in the world around us. We must start looking at our unwitting pre-assumptions, at our dogma that hobbles us. We must be able to adapt, to see how we can become better people, better leaders, and more open to different ideas in a new world emerging.

In the new civic bullying courses I am teaching about this, I am going to call the practice “shunning”. In government there is a similar thing called “plausible deniability”. According to Wikipedia, this is a term “coined by the CIA in the early 1960s to describe the withholding of information from senior officials in order to protect them from repercussions in the event that illegal or unpopular activities by the CIA became public knowledge”.

Let me illustrate one case where shunning was achieved by City Club during this election cycle. Please know that I have a very great respect for many people inside this organization, and I have been honored to be a member. This is not a personal attack, this is for illustration that it happens with top level groups, whether it is intentional or not. Facts are facts. Whether the shunning stems from my being a white woman, from personal prejudice, presumptive economic bias, educational bias, fear, or people were intimidated by the opposition…I do not know.

1) Notice that City Club hosted a debate on the Jail Tax proposition. The debate was between two white males. Notice that I was not invited to the table even though I am President of the Restorative Community Coalition. This Coalition is a 501C3, and is one of the most noteworthy and experienced organizations in Whatcom County that has been consistently standing up against the jail proposal, and against the jail industry. We are known across the state for our leadership in this field. In fact, I co-authored a booklet about the matter called, “Stop Punishing Taxpayers, Start Rebuilding Community” – said to be a PHD level document on jail reform – based on five years of intimately studying this problem in Whatcom County. Yet, rather than have me debate the matter they brought in a white male, Mark Cooke, from the ACLU in Seattle to debate a Whatcom County issue. And yes, he did an exceptional job – so was it right or wrong? I leave that to you to think about.

2) Notice that City Club did not host a debate between myself and Jack Louws. Why not? It makes no sense. The Whatcom County Executive position is perhaps the most powerful position in Whatcom County from a business and economics perspective. Why in the world would a business club full of civic minded people not want to hear the two candidates speak on the subject? What if I became the Executive? They had five months to do a debate. From the primary all through the final election. They hosted debates on other candidates. But they shunned the most economically powerful position that could change all their financial situations. In avoiding the issue, they shunned the one white female competitor in favor of an incumbent white male. Is this logical? Guess what happened? Members were told during the event that if the tax did not pass, there was a good possibility that the County would build the jail from banked property taxes…16 years of them. To me that is a direct civic bullying tactic to intimidate this group of people to pass the tax, for most members are property owners. Had I been at the table, I would have called it out.

I cannot help but conclude that this was what I call professional, or institutionalized “shunning”. The total dismissal of a female candidate as being even relevant. The irony is, that if in fact, I was a lousy candidate, the opportunity should have been given for me to fall on my face. However, they did not deem it necessary. In fact, they lost an incredible opportunity to expand their perceptions of the future. I have roughly 40 years of independent business experience – as a self-made business consultant and business owner who has trained thousands of people across this nation as a corporate trainer of entrepreneurs. By comparison, Jack has 30 years in a corporate company his father built, and then 3 terms in government where the staff are paid to serve you.

Who really lost in this race? To me, the people did. They did not get a chance to find out who was the best candidate. The information was withheld by presumptive bias. That makes me very sad. To me, our solid citizen leadership did too. Many of our elders are vulnerable to their own biases, and as a result can be manipulated by high volume, fast moving outside forces that spin doctor the stories, and these forces are bigger than any of us local folks are when we are living in our individual worlds.

I have learned that for me to win as a white female in this presumptively “man’s world”, I have had to over-produce to get half the respect. That is a several hundred fold over-performance. And this is part of why America is losing ground in the world. We, as a nation of complacent leaders, are underperforming relative to our potential. Facts show that our nation is today the #1 failure nation in the world at protecting freedom. We have 25% of the world’s prisoners, and only 5% of the population. And middle America is being shut out of the economy. Something is dreadfully wrong with this picture when our nation is supposedly based on freedom and free enterprise.

My observation is that fear of change and fear of liability stunts our leadership. It is not that the City Club people are bad people. The oversight may have been intentional or unwitting, caused by wearing blinders. But I find it interesting that when I realized what was happening, I asked about it, and my question was ignored. I think this is about the collective enabling that happens when there are certain assumptions agreed to – and people don’t even question the assumptions, or they yield to habit.

I have not let these kinds of biases stop me from doing what I intended. As a result I have been on the leading edge of several professions as they have transformed. Along the way I did outstanding work to help turn the tides. I have built all new models of leadership, and a new science of change management. Yes, it is difficult being a female trailblazer. To compensate for the biases, it simply takes more work. It takes more energy, more fortitude, more smarts, more courage, better systems and more passion to win against these kinds of forces.

What I’ve learned as an entrepreneur is how to turn problems into opportunities…the crux of the supply and demand business model. I learned how to turn messes into an asset and build upon it.

Believe me, this issue of pre-assumed jail industry domination is not a “done deal”. I have already begun the process of taking this local situation into the national arena. This game of incarcerating our youth, our college kids, our poor, our addicted for purposes of profiting is over. The game of selling our future down the river for short term economic stimulus and construction jobs is over. Our taxpayers and our county will not be bankrupted for the benefit of cruel multi-national corporations who want to control this county for their personal gain.

Freedom is my personal highest value. Freedom is the ultimate responsibility. I will not allow our children’s future to be owned by outside big money interests, who care not about our people.

Read Joy’s post on her Facebook page here.

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