María Pabón speaks at St. John’s Lutheran Church of Women

The St. John’s Lutheran Church Women of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) in Northfield is running an ongoing speaker series this fall called “Courageous Conversations.” Director of the Taylor Center for Equity and Inclusion María Pabón started off the program on Oct. 1 with a Zoom talk titled “Unconscious Bias and its Impact on our Actions.”

Pabón presented an introductory training in recognizing and fighting unconscious bias. She explained unconscious bias as rooted in human biology.

“We are biologically wired to create categories and groups in order to understand the world,” Pabón said.

She instructed the 45 participants to think about their own biases before offering a definition and a variety of examples of her own.

Much of Pabón’s talk centered on the impacts of unconscious bias on marginalized communities. She provided examples of places in which bias appears such as law enforcement, schooling, access to jobs and medical care.

Pabón shared a story about her experiences with her daughter’s school to illustrate the ways unconscious bias can be pervasive and deeply harmful to those it affects.

In the last portion of the talk, Pabón outlined steps that the audience could take to mitigate their own unconscious bias. She began by stressing that her talk was only part of a larger set of actions that people must take to undo their ingrained biases.

Pabón advised the audience first and foremost to have conversations with people who are different from them. Her discussion centered on building diverse and inclusive social circles. The first step, she said, is to examine one’s own groups and make friends with people with different identities.

“This has to be a constant work,” Pabón said. “You’re not going to have it figured out after I’m done talking.”