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Checking our unconscious bias

Shakirah Hunter

Everyday like clockwork I take a walk with my kids. The sun and fresh air does us a lot of good. I am usually careful to walk with all my belongings tucked away as we have been taught to do so in South Africa. There is the worry of your belongings being stolen. The fear that you might be robbed at any moment a given. This suspicion is taught to us from a young age. We must always be careful of our fellow human beings for we could be victims within seconds.

With this mindframe I walked and suddenly my phone rang. I picked up my phone whilst overtly scanning the road to see if I was ‘safe’ to do so. I suddenly saw a man walking towards me . I quickly cut the call and put away my phone.  An act which most would commend for safety is of utmost concern. But as the man approached me – I was not fast enough. He saw me rush to put away my phone. And watched as I nervously tried to be calm. But the look on his face is what inspired me to write this article today.

As he came closer I saw he had on a topi and was on his way to Musjid for Salaatul Jummuah. He was busy making tasbeeh as he walked. But the look on his face told me,that had gone through this many times. He knew I had been afraid. He could see that I was trying to mask my actions. And yet it was clear that I had been unconsciously judging him.

He smiled in a self-deprecating manner and shrugged . It was in that moment that I made istighfaar. That I realized how our country has shaped us. To judge and live in fear. To look at people of a different color and race and to immediately expect them to be criminal. We have been burned as a nation but irrespective of the narrative, irrespective of the criminal element – we must choose to look at each human being as a human , a creation of Allah. We have developed these biases and unconsciously we carry this burden of judging even the most innocent of people.

We pass man people in our Daily lives , yes our bias is dictated by the way that we think, our racisim, tribalism and mainly our discrimination against others that might not appear to be the same as us. We all experience it , yes as a believer our goal has to be to hold on to a heart that is saleem – free from suspicion and discrimination against others.

“Oh Allah do not Place hatred in our hearts for those who believe, our Rabb You are Kind and Merciful.” Ameen


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