Take a look in the mirror

Ponder these four words: Recognize your own bias.

Tough to do, right? Look in the mirror. What do you see?

Would you be characterized as a racist? Are you inclusive? Or do you even seek to be? Is the status quo enough status for you?

The ongoing conversation about diversity and inclusion – or D&I as it appears nearly everywhere today – should have us all looking in the mirror and asking tough questions and coming face-to-face with our own biases.

Our profession, at least at the association level with the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), has tackled this issue more than once, in fact, several times over the years. As a former member of the board of directors told me the other day, “we’ve done this before. Appointed a committee. Held seminars (before the Zoom explosion). Created toolkits (even the 2020 version acknowledges the five previous editions).”

Now, there are plans to develop more communications professionals into advocates for the chapters of PRSSA at the historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) around the nation.

Now, there are plans to urge and solicit young minority professionals to seek the Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) credential from PRSA, the right step to develop a more diverse pool of future leaders in the profession.

It’s all the things one would expect from an organization of professional communicators, but … my colleague stated, the last time “it went nowhere.”

Now it has to go somewhere.

Our work, and it will be work, needs to be thoughtful and intentional and purposeful.

The term “unconscious bias” has grabbed my attention and is defined as “Unconscious or implicit biases are learned stereotypes that are automatic, unintentional, deeply ingrained, universal and able to influence behavior.”

That means me  – a white Southern man – who just woke up to the term “unconscious bias” must look into and through the mirror, into my own past and my family’s past and recognize those biases and know that I must act; to be a part of a legion who are willing to, as the PRSA document states, “not be intimidated by the moment.”

By action, consultant Valerie Wilson, the CEO of Essence Learning reels off a list to get started, “recognizing and acknowledging, listening to understand, educate and discover, engage and empower and act, own and resource.”

It starts with small steps, every time.

One day, with hope and determination, the faces in the mirror won’t have to keep asking these questions over and over again. Now it has to go somewhere.