Unconscious bias was the topic at Launch 2019


Risha Grant addresses new students.

Risha Grant hurled her opening speech with gusto to the new Daniels graduate students.

“I’m not here to blame you, guilt you or judge you,” said Grant, CEO of Risha Grant LLC. “I could die before you change your mind. I don’t have that kind of time!”

Grant, who specializes in unconscious bias training, was the keynote speaker for Launch 2019 Sept. 5. She energized the audience in Reiman Theater, encouraging them to realize that we all have biases.

“Bias is a preconceived or unreasoned feeling or emotion,” Grant said. “This is cool if we’re talking about college sports, but we’re usually talking about people.”

Through a series of stories—some personal, some funny, some shocking—Grant laid out a three-step process for each individual to identify and confront his, her or zir bias.

To identify the bias, Grant suggested the audience take an assessment, asking, who are the people who make you feel uncomfortable and why? Then, ask if the reason you’re uncomfortable is their fault or your issue.

“Are my feelings based on personal experience, societal norms or deeply rooted, long-held beliefs that were instilled as a child?” she asked.

Grant talks with students in Reiman Theater.

Grant shared four factors that reinforce our biases:

  • Personal experience
  • Family
  • Friends
  • Media

“Think about what media teaches us about people,” Grant said. “Think about what you’re receiving; find out for yourself who people are.”

In step two, Grant told the audience that they need to own their bias. It’ll be a process of giving and receiving grace, she explained, where we’ll make mistakes and so will someone else. But, we cannot be passive and ignore it if someone says something offensive.

“Nobody gets a pass,” she said. “You might need to give a gentle correction, but if we ignore it, it’s a coward[ly] response.”

Josh Bellatti—an incoming finance student—said he thoroughly enjoyed Grant’s presentation and perspective.

“I really liked her approach,” he said. “She gave us ways to handle different situations to encourage change.”

Grant explained that step three in the process is unconditional love. Don’t use the golden rule where you treat people like you want to be treated, but upgrade to platinum, where you treat people the way THEY want to be treated.

“Be intentional. Unpack your boxes. Question your assumptions. Challenge your micro aggressions,” she said. “There is no them. There is only us.”