“The leaders of our world can contribute in fuelling our unconscious biases,” says Lucy Weatherston, 16 year old student.

But what is an unconscious bias? On a couple of occasions my school, Rosebery in Epsom, Surrey, has received a talk about this, the second time being just earlier this week, but it is for good reason.

Unconscious bias refers to a bias that we are unaware of, and which happens outside of our control. It is a bias that happens automatically due to our brains being hard wired to rapidly categorise people instinctively, making conclusions on a person based on our instinctive feels rather than any complex thinking about the facts at hand. We use obvious and visible categories to do this; e.g. body weight, skin colour, gender and disability.  But also less visible dimensions like; accent, social background, sexual orientation, nationality, religion and even job title. These categories automatically allocate a whole collection of unconscious characteristics, good and bad, to anyone categorised as being from that group. We have little control over these biases and they influence everyone, no matter how unbiased we think we may be.                         

So after hearing a talk about this at my school, and the same day seeing Donald Trump providing blatant proof of how it was working, I decided to look into the situation further.

On the 29th November, Donald Trump retweeted all three of the far right ‘Britain First’ leader, Jayda Fransen’s tweets, which were all anti-Islamic and claimed to show attacks by Muslims. The posts included unverified videos titled “Muslim Destroys a Statue of Virgin Mary!” and “Muslim migrant beats up Dutch boy on crutches!” President Donald Trump has almost 43.7 million followers on twitter. The widespread influence he has on people is huge, for better or for worse. The responses to his retweets are mixed, some agreeing with what the two influential leaders were saying and some disagreeing.

“It’s something you would expect to see on anti-Muslim hate sites, not on the Twitter feed of the president of the United States,” says Lucy Weatherston, student aged 16, at seeing what happened.

The problem people had is how the three posts that the President re-tweeted depicted the people who the ‘Britain First’ group claimed were migrants involved in various crimes – and used them to implicitly blame all Muslims for the behaviour. By doing so Trump may have increased the unconscious or conscious biases in people’s minds that contribute to Islamophobia. The little action he made, and other leaders can make might result in the increasing the prejudice against certain minorities. In the talk we were given at my school, statistics were shown to us that heavily implied there were prejudices in who got job interviews simply on account of the names being different; the names suggesting different backgrounds. The threat isn’t just in that form; Fransen herself, for example, has a criminal record in the U.K for the harassment of Muslims, including a charge of ‘religiously aggravated harassment’. 

"It beggars belief that the President of our closest ally doesn't see that his support of this extremist group actively undermines the values of tolerance and diversity that makes Britain so great,” said Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London.

“It’s like we are moving one step forward and two steps back,” Lucy Weatherston added.

Do you agree? Have a think. Do you think some of the leaders of our world, like Donald Trump, are helping fuel our unconscious biases?

It’s really good for people to understand what unconscious biases are, acknowledge they have them. Online, there’s a lot of talk on how we can try control these biases and we were encouraged during the talk that was given to look at this and try it out. Maybe you could too.