Note: This blog post was originally written in summer 2020. In light of the one year anniversary of George Floyd's murder and to commemorate Junteenth coming up this month, I thought that it deserves another look.
I speak a second language (Spanish), studied in Costa Rica and Spain, and spent a summer teaching art and English in Nicaragua. In college, I shared houses and rooms with students from China, Korea, and Bangladesh. I prided myself in my ability to befriend international students. I literally LOVE learning about other cultures!
And yet, when I married my Canadian husband, I realized that despite all my current efforts to reach out to other cultures, I began to see how even my American-ness influences the way I see (or don't see) the world.
That, and the fact that I'm a blonde Caucasian woman, and I live in Boise, ID where the population is 89% white.
The Black Lives Matter movement, and all its predecessors, aren't new. But recent happenings like the murder of George Floyd, along with the protests and media coverage it brought - has brought issues of social justice into the forefront of white Americans' minds - which is exactly where change is possible.
We can try our best to walk in another's shoes, but even if we succeed, it's still us who are walking in them.
When I vote, when I talk with others, when I support local businesses, when I make friends, it's as a white person. For me, the first step towards becoming an aware citizen- one who recognizes injustice and supports and fights for the rights of all - is to recognize my personal biases.
This simple art activity takes the word "world view" literally. It demonstrates (in a very tangible way) that where you live and where you pay attention inevitably shapes your understanding of the world.
Art Activity: Recognizing Worldview Bias
Supplies: pen and paper
1. Draw 3 circles (don't worry, they don't have to be perfect).
2. Now, draw the globe from 3 different points of view. You choose which ones (don't worry, it won't be perfect).
Very important: no cheating and looking it up on your phone! The point is to do this from memory.
Speaking of cheating, don't proceed scrolling until you you've done the exercise yourself! I don't want to taint your perspective with mine.
Note: This part of the exercise is taken straight from the book "Coffee Break Sketching".
3. When you've done it, now's the chance to learn (this part isn't from "Coffee Break Sketching").
4. Grab your phone and use Google Earth to find the view of the globe that you were trying to draw out by memory.
5. Notice similarities and differences between your drawing and the earth view. Make lots of observations! Write them down and/or chat about them with a friend.
Here's what I observed in my 3 drawings:
6. Alright, now ask yourself why did you choose those 3 views? Observe what worldview you didn't capture. Maybe you consciously avoided one, like I did:
7. Next, reflect on your observations: What have you learned about how you see the world? Why do you think that you see the world this way? What could you do to expand your world view - both in terms of geography, and in life?
I hope that this simple exercise helps YOU find your own biases. What you do with what you discover is up to you.
Note: If you're a teacher or other great person of influence, please feel free to use this activity! No permission needed for this one. In fact, I encourage you to share.
Please share: What were your results? What have you learned from this exercise?