Plymouth Area League of Women’s Voters and No Place for Hate ” Let Talk Unconscious Bias” Forum

April 14, 2020

By Emily Clark
Posted Feb 9, 2020 at 10:00 AM   

The signs of prejudice are not always clearly defined, and the term “unconscious bias” points to what can happen when people aren’t aware they are acting out of prejudice.

PLYMOUTH – The signs of prejudice are not always clearly defined, and the term “unconscious bias” points to what can happen when people aren’t aware they are acting out of prejudice.

The results can be insidious, undermining a person’s confidence, hurting their job performance and robbing them of success and freedoms.

For Plymouth No Place for Hate Committee Chairman Barbara Aharoni and the Plymouth Area League of Women Voters, it’s time to address the issue head-on, particularly in light of recent developments. An Old Colony Memorial headline last summer that included the word “racism” was a lightning rod to act, according to Aharoni, who said Kathy Dunn of the League contacted her and asked what they were going to do about it.

The headline “Racism complaint settled” appeared in a July issue of the paper and referenced a story about former Director of Public Health Dr. Nate Horwitz-Willis, who had filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination accusing his boss of racism. Director of Inspectional Services Paul McAuliffe vehemently denied the claims, and the case was settled. According to MCAD documents, Horwitz-Willis sought no monetary damages and asked that the town institute unconscious bias training for employees, which Town Manager Melissa Arrighi said the town agreed to implement.

For Aharoni, this training is important for everyone, not just town employees, as the incidence of hate crimes continues to rise. NPFH and the League of Women Voters decided to team up on a project to accomplish just that, hosting the forum “Let’s Talk…Unconscious Bias,” a free event to be held at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 27, in the Great Hall at Plymouth’s Town Hall at 26 Court St.

The public is urged to attend.

Award-winning IES Abroad Diversity Director Gretchen Cook-Anderson will speak during this forum, which will include panelists from many perspectives and backgrounds. The panel comprises PFLAG Cape Cod President Joe Lima, CAST Self Advocacy Group President Matthew Potte, Temple Beth Jacob Executive Board member Jackie Winokur, Herring Pond Wampanoag Tribe Chairlady Melissa Ferretti, and Director of Islamic Cultural Center of Medford Nicole Mossalam, who will all share experiences and their takes on what unconscious bias is and how to diffuse it.

Most businesses nowadays require employees to take unconscious bias and other courses aimed at creating safer, happier workplaces. Online videos present scenarios that later test the viewer’s skills at identifying the unconscious bias and acknowledging how the particular behavior affected the person targeted. Unconscious bias can impact people of a particular sex, mental or physical limitation, gender, race, culture or religion, and more.

For Aharoni, the only way to change these prejudices is to identify them and talk about them. Education is the key, she said, because unconscious bias wields a dangerous sword that can lead to negative and even sinister outcomes, as groups in power disenfranchise and target others. With surveys revealing that so many young people and others are completely unaware of horrors like The Holocaust, Aharoni noted the rise of anti-Semitism, racism, sexism and other targeting prejudices in America. Experts say we all harbor prejudices of one kind or another, and learning about them, how they manifest and grow, is the only way to eradicate them.