George Wurtzel: 'Everybody has a cultural bias'

George Wurtzel, a craftsperson and artist who happens to be blind, said a day doesn’t go by where he doesn’t experience some form of discrimination of prejudice. For Wurtzel, while it’s easy to expose people to blatant prejudice, it becomes more difficult to try to talk about more subtle types of discrimination.

A classroom discussion of structural racism led to a reprimand for Professor Shannon Gibney at MCTC. Professors and students at other colleges report that discussions are often tough, with some white students perceiving any discussion of structural racism as a personal attack. We've collected many of their accounts in Structural racism: Can we talk? Or not? To join in the discussion, post a comment or send an opinion article to editor [at] tcdailyplanet [dot] net.

A while back, Wurtzel taught a diversity course in Lansing, Michigan, where most of the students were on track to become HR representatives or other middle management positions. “There are all kinds of documented stuff out there — if you happen to have first name that is non gender specific you will get far more invites to interview than people who have gender specific names. A Black person walks into a small town café in middle of no where Minnesota — are they going to be treated differently than the exact same person being white? “

Wurtzel’s approach was often asking the students to take a step back to where they grew up, and figure out in what ways they’ve been informed by their experiences. “Because you really have to get to the root of why people are the way they are, and find ways to education and modify people’s process.” As part of the course, Wurtzel would recommend that students going on to management positions hide any identifying information other than a job applicant’s skill set. “Everybody has a cultural bias,” he said. “No matter how open we think we are — you have cultural biases that you started learning when you were a child.

  • Well said, George. It takes a lifetime to undo what we learned as children. You have to be taught to hate other people for anything but their mistreatment of you. - by Susan Gossiaux on Tue, 12/24/2013 - 5:29pm

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Sheila Regan's picture
Sheila Regan

Sheila Regan (sheila [at] tcdailyplanet [dot] net) is a Minneapolis theater artist and freelance writer.