The first implicit bias trainings organized by the Riverhead Anti-Prejudice Task Force were successful – enough that the group was already taking names for another series of workshops.
About 50 people attended the June sessions, which fostered an open discussion on how to be more respectful and understanding of others.
The conversations were chaired by James Banks, a professor at Suffolk County Community College, who hosted a Synergy meeting in town early last month to facilitate communication between Riverhead Police and members of the local community.
“There will be times when you don’t agree with the things that are said,” he told his audience in a Monday morning session. “It’s always been my practice, that’s okay… Be open to a wide range of different perspectives. ”
In two double-session seminars he discussed microaggressions, systemic racism, anti-blackness, privilege and, of course, implicit prejudice, among others. Members of the public intervened throughout. Mr. Banks reinforced his presentation with videos, activities and a guided meditation.
“The ancestor of all things is an idea,” he said at one point. “Then it goes to your beliefs… and then the belief goes to our feelings… [which] then transition to behaviors or actions.
In order to change behavior and action, he said, it is important to go back and change the original idea. A woman in the audience gave an example saying, “I think most men are sexist against women. ”
“Okay! Now how would you temper that statement, so that the idea could be changed?” Mr. Banks asked. “One word is all you have to change. ‘A few men. Now that will affect all that will follow.
Juan Micieli-Martinez, an entrepreneur and winemaker based in Riverhead, called the sessions “enlightening”.
The training helped him “better understand what implicit bias means and how it affects us all,” he said. “I think it’s naturally innate to some extent, but it’s also taught, and so how we can better reduce these impacts in our daily lives is really what I learned from the training.”
He first joined after receiving an email from the Town of Riverhead announcing the opportunity to learn more about Implied Bias, a term he was not fully aware of before.
“The impulse was just to broaden my understanding of human relationships, that’s really what it’s about,” he explained. And now that he’s experienced the trainings, he thinks it’s something that “would benefit a lot of people.”
Mr. Micieli-Martinez, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Mexico, pointed out that many Americans tend to lose sight of the fact that, unless they are Native Americans, a family member was an immigrant at one point. given, something Mr. Banks also spoke about during his lecture.
Anne Marie Prudenti, deputy city attorney, said she had learned a lot about implicit biases, including their scope.
“We learned that from the family, the experience and the prejudices that exist. It’s not just racing. It can be religion, ethnicity, gender – that’s actually the whole gamut, ”she said. “I discovered other prejudices, implicit prejudices, I guess, that I hadn’t even realized or recognized.”
The workshop brought people together and opened a dialogue on “sensitive” topics like the prejudices and prejudices that many people avoid, she added.
“I was very happy because the workshop never told or asked anyone to accept or believe a point of view,” Ms. Prudenti said. “Instead, it was about listening, thinking, and having open dialogue and communication with others, be it one person or a group of people.”
Stephen Palmer, Anti-Bias Task Force member and retired police officer, said he would not call the sessions “training” as long as “a discussion between the participants and the man who led the discussion “.
“It was not heated at all,” he said. “We were able to speak to each other in a civilian manner. We had our differences, but there really weren’t that many differences. People tend to agree that change has to happen and it’s just how we’re going to do it that’s going to be a real challenge.
Riverhead Councilor Catherine Kent, who also attended the sessions, said it was especially important for people who work with the public to be respectful and aware of how “the things we say and do Make others feel. She commended the working group for its work.
“The anti-bias working group has worked very hard, does a great job and brings a lot of things to the community and I’m sure the work will continue,” Ms. Kent said. “They are a very enthusiastic bunch and I know they are working with other cities on things.”
Anyone interested in future trainings on implicit bias through the Riverhead Anti-bias Working Group should send an email [email protected].