Thursday, February 28, 2019

More on bias.

I think so much about bias. About MY biases. About OTHERS' biases. And about all that happens as a result.

But these days? I mostly just spend time unpacking my own biases. Trying my best to have the courage to make my implicit biases explicit to me. So that I can start doing the work to be my best doctor and person.


This is exactly what I saw in the Grady emergency department the other day:

1. An elderly black woman was sitting in a wheelchair having her blood pressure taken by a nurse. She had a blanket over her shoulders and her grey hair was in plaits. She kept dozing off. Her ankles were very swollen. Her nails had been painted with a bright color by someone.

2. On the other side of the room, this young white man was sitting on a gurney with his legs dangling off of the ends of it. HIs shoes looked very new. And very expensive. He was staring at a smart phone, periodically sighing super hard. I was thinking it was to let everyone know he was tired of waiting. But maybe he was sighing for a totally different reason.

3. Somebody was hollering behind a curtain. Like, super loud. All of a sudden, that hollering person ripped back the curtain and looked around. I made eye contact with the person--a very slender woman with pale skin, stringy hair and really, really bad teeth. Her eyes widened when she saw me looking and her hollering started being directed at me. "DOCTOR! ARE YOU MY DOCTOR? DOCTOR!" she screamed. I wasn't her doctor. I slid behind a column out of her line of sight.

4. A Spanish-speaking woman and man were sitting together in one chair. He was on the chair and she was on his lap. She had an IV in with nothing running into it. And he was wearing what appeared to be clothes from a construction site. I don't speak Spanish, but I could tell they were concerned. And tired. But he was making her laugh. And every time she laughed I could see the gold rimming her front teeth. A few moments later, he was falling asleep, too. Just like that elder in the wheelchair.

5. A gender-nonconforming hospital employee walked by. Smiled in my direction and said, "Hey Dr. Manning." I said hey back, but the greeting given to me was so warm and familiar that I felt too ashamed to ask for the name I probably should have already known. I'd seen this person many times before. I noticed a new facial piercing this time.

6. A big commotion came from up the hall and in comes two uniformed officers with a lean, muscular young man with hands cuffed behind him. He isn't resisting, just looking really mad. He was shirtless and his beltless pants were nearly falling down. HIs hair was in locs--part brown, part blonde--and they shook every time he moved his head. Even though he wasn't fighting those officers, it seemed like they were fighting him. He caught me looking, too. He stared at me, almost like he was daring me to judge him. For some reason, with him, I didn't move behind a column. I just tried my best to make my eyes as soft as possible. He looked a lot like my youngest son.

All of this was in the span of 60 seconds.


My bias was at play in every single one of those scenarios. Since I know that now, I see stuff so differently. My friend Shanta Z. and some others have helped me a lot with getting more woke in this aspect. Now, after moments like this, I walk around asking myself stuff like:

Who are you?
What are you afraid of?
What are afraid other people are afraid of?
Who are you trying to protect?
Who are you not trying to protect?
What are you mad at?
What are you sad at?
What makes you feel at home?
What makes you feel lost?

And the list goes on and on.

And yes. I say this stuff to my learners, too. Not to hear their answers. But just to get them seeing what I see, too. Or seeing what they see, too.

Yeah. That.

America is a bugged out place, man. And if you think white folks are the only ones trying to sort through their implicit and explicit biases, you just met someone who will help you to stop thinking that.

The answer to all this? Shit. I don't know. But acknowledgment is a start, man. I just want to be better. Do better. Be brave.

Yeah. That.



  1. I wish everyone could read this. We all need to be thinking like this. You questions you ask yourself made me cry.

    1. I cannot say how much I agree with you.

      I've been trying to know my own bias for ages.

      Nice mantra Doctor Kim gives us in the end.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Self awareness is that first step. But we're human and it's a life long walk.


"Tell me something good. . . tell me that you like it, yeah." ~ Chaka Khan

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