jury duty and bias
I wrote this while waiting to serve on a jury selection panel:
I’m sitting in the courthouse just outside a courtroom waiting to be part of a jury panel to determine whether I will be selected to serve on an actual jury. As I sit here, litigants walk back and forth and in and out of court rooms. Despite my training as a sociologist I find thoughts flickering through my brain when I see the litigants. For instance, a young black man with his middle aged mother was accompanied by a security officer and his defense attorney. As I eavesdropped on the conversation it seemed as though the young man was indignant that he even had to be here. I didn’t catch any details, but I couldn’t help but wonder if the security guard was there to protect him or to protect me from him. My biases suggested the latter, not the former. A group of about 5 young Hispanic men just walked through the waiting area. Given their dress, tattoos, and hairstyles, my biases were again triggered and I immediately thought that they must be friends or family of a defendant. I, of course, don’t know that, but the biases lead my thought processes that way. If I, a sociologist, can’t keep these biases from popping into my head, why would I be surprised that others have similar biases, more openly express them, and even act on them? I recognize them for what they are and actively counter process them. But they are obviously deep-seated.