An evening theatrical performance in the city with friends from work sounds like a pleasant experience. Although for Clark Hallpike, a Professor of Business at ECC, such a night on the streets of Chicago lead to confronting racist strangers.
“I was on the sidewalk…and here comes this white couple,” Hallpike said. “[The woman] looks up, sees us and grabs her husband for dear life. [I am] 5 foot six, old and decrepit, and she grabs her husband for dear life. I will remember that for a long time.”
On Nov. 19 at 12:30 p.m., Elgin Community College’s Multicultural and Global Initiatives Committee, partnered with the community and other organizations, sponsored a discussion event as part of their Beyond Awareness Series in the Spartan Auditorium. The question that leads the discourse touches on a topic that has been in the media recently: How do we confront our implicit bias?
A skit is performed by ECC theater students to introduce the topic at the beginning of the event. The actors portray a situation where a gay man applying for a job mentions his boyfriend and the whole tone of the interaction shifts.
Following the skit, a short video created by The New York Times, “Peanut Butter, Jelly and Racism” is shown. The definition of implicit bias is given.
“Thought processes that happen without you even knowing it: little mental shortcuts that hold judgments you might not agree with and sometimes those shortcuts are based on race.”
The Elgin Police Department’s Strategic Initiatives Commander, Rick Ciganek spoke in response to questions on how implicit bias is addressed in his occupation and why it is a difficult task, but an important one.
“Police Officers are human just like everybody else,” Ciganek said. “Everybody has biases, [but] when a police officer comes to work the key is to not allow those biases to not affect decision making.”
As the event came to a close and the audience of over 150, most of them ECC students, left the crowd, Stephanie (who only gave her first name) , a first-year student pursuing a degree in early childhood education, attended the event to receive extra credit for a class, said she learned a valuable lesson.
“I think this was beneficial because I’m going to be an educator,” Stephanie said. “As an educator, it is important to not be biased and [instead] be open-minded.”
Hallpike believes the knowledge gained through examining prejudices and the Beyond Awareness Series is more memorable and important than what he can teach in the classroom.
“So the question is, why do we do this work?” Hallpike said. “[We want to] unearth our biases and…see people differently than we ever did.”