116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Imagine yourself walking alone at night along a dark street.
You hear footsteps approaching behind. You are afraid. What type of person do you think is following you?
You feel safe. What type of person do you think is following you?
These elucidative questions are part of the Smithsonian's exhibition, "The Bias Inside Us," currently at the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library in Cedar Rapids through May 16.
The exhibition is germane to our moment, and the museum should be applauded for hosting it. The exhibition is currently touring the upper Midwest. There is another opportunity to see it in Iowa at the Science Center of Iowa in Des Moines July 10 through August 8.
Bias, in its negative forms, is the engine of privilege and a fuel for hate. But bias has positive and inherent forms. The magic of this installation helps us parse out the complexity and universality of bias.
The Smithsonian hopes to "raise awareness about the science and history of bias and what people can do about it."
The first thing we can do is to recognize and own the inherent bias inside of us. The second thing is to realize no one gets to escape this assessment. Our brains use bias to process and evaluate information. As the Smithsonian says, bias "is part of being human."
The exhibition invites us to remove chips from our shoulders and to tamp down our spurious claim that biases, ——isms, and phobias do not ever emanate from us. Then we are prepared to engage the learning and insight that this presentation offers us.
Have you ever said or thought, "He's from that side of town" or "She's from the wrong side of the tracks?"
Did you presume that the male injecting your first COVID-19 vaccine was a physician and the female injecting your second dose was a nurse? Welcome to Bias Town!
Have you ever used the word millennial as an insult? OK, Boomer.
And how little does it take your biases to fire and explode?
What if your daughter brought home a new sweetheart of a different ethnicity? What if you had to give up your 20-year company parking space so the business could create another parking stall for colleagues with disabilities?
Just how welcoming and collegial are you to colleagues and clients with personalities, neurodiversities or learning styles different from yours? What if a family of refugees rented the house next door? What if members of another world religion want to build a house of worship in your neighborhood? What if your son introduced his new boyfriend?
The exhibition is affirming, empathic, colorful, hands-on, welcoming, nurturing and inspiring. I viewed it after climbing Mount Trashmore three straight times. Exertions for the body, mind and spirit just yards from one another. Why not make it a day of wellness and enrichment as you do yourself a favor visiting this exhibition?
Patrick Muller of Hills is an artist and community builder.