I believe, as people, we live in bubbles – not physical ones, but ones that affect our way of thinking.  Bubbles that contain our model of the world.

My First Bubble

My first bubble was, living at home with my parents, as an only child. We lived a middle-class life, not particularly well off, but my parents had the advantage of fully owning their own house without a mortgage.

We didn’t own a car, and never travelled abroad for holidays.

Although I lived in a suburb about three miles from Leicester, which had a large Asian population, I knew no-one who wasn’t white.

My next bubble, burst the first one. I went to college in Manchester, where I met people from all walks of life.  People who had been to private school, boarding school, and a very small number of people of colour. I was at music college in 1970, and there were two people in college who were of colour.

For the first time, without any parental interventions, I could make my own decisions. I had no-one but own conscience to answer to. I loved it.

This second bubble was a huge step forward in my education of life.

My first teaching post was in Birmingham, and for the first time, I worked with and got to know people from different ethnic backgrounds. I loved the diversity.

My bubble was growing!

Bubbles -What am I talking about?

We all make perceptions about people and situations, based on our Unconscious Bias.  Based on our background, personal experiences, societal stereotypes and cultural context, without us even being aware we are doing so. 

Research suggests that we instinctively categorize people using easily observed criteria, such as age, weight, skin colour and gender. But we also classify people according to educational level, disability, sexuality, accent, social status and job title.  We automatically assign presumed traits to anyone we subconsciously put into those groups.

And those judgements are based on our history, background and what we have been exposed to in our past.

If we have lived a very sheltered life, then our background may also be sheltered, which could lead us to making narrower based assumptions than someone who has lived a life exposed to a rich variety of experiences.

What is a small bubble?

My mother’s bubble was very different to my fathers.

By the time she died in her early nineties, she had never travelled outside of the UK.

She had no friends who were not white and British.

She didn’t eat any food that wasn’t British.

She assumed everyone else live their lives the way she did – the correct way.

She had a perception of people who were not born in this country, which wasn’t always positive.

The only difference between my parents was, my dad fought in the war, and was based in Holland and Germany – but that was the only time he left the UK too.

Why am I writing about this now?

#Blacklivesmatters has a huge impact on my life; half of my family are Black British. 

I am married to someone who is not white, does not have a middle-class background, or a college education.

For some people, they would make assumptions about him purely based on their unconscious bias.  My mother did.

Had I not gone to college, and moved away from home, I believe my life would not have had the richness of experiences, and the friendships I now have.

I am grateful to my parents for instilling good manners, and a sense of integrity within me, amongst other things, but I am even more thankful they gave me the opportunity to move away from home, which enabled me to build up my own bubble of life; the acceptance of people who have different backgrounds, skin colours, educational statuses and experiences to me.

We need to make a start by having conversations. Not just making assumptions based on how someone looks.

You cannot make a judgement about someone’s values, education, personality or anything else purely by their appearance.  If you do, then in my view, you are letting your bias affect your intellectual reasoning.

How bit is your bubble?

“You never know you’re in a bubble until it pops”

Andrew Revkin