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NEWS | July 30, 2020

Checking Your Bias

By Spc. Brett Hornbeck, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

 Equal Opportunity Representatives form units across the state participated in the Kentucky National Guards first ever statewide diversity training course on July 20.

The Kentucky National Guard is taking steps to unify its members through education and inclusivity.

Pastor Edward L. Palmer Sr. with The Sign of the Dove Church in Radcliff, Kentucky, led the training.

Pastor Palmer is a former Army Infantryman and a certified diversity trainer who has worked with leaders in the executive and legislative branches of the Kentucky state government. By informing others of cultural topics such as cultural competence and implicit bias, Pastor Palmer has helped facilitate conversations that led others to gain a greater understanding of the underlying issues of racism.

The Kentucky National Guard believes eradicating the issue of racism within its ranks will require leaders to designate times in which Soldiers are encouraged to learn and discuss cultural factors that can and have led to discrimination.

“Starting the dialogue is the first step, so we can take on the issue of racism in the same context that we do any other leadership challenge,” said Kentucky Air National Guard Chief of Staff, Brig. Gen. Charles M. Walker.

The diversity training provided leaders in the Kentucky National Guard with the education needed to participate in these dialogues. One of the main concepts taught in the training is the idea of implicit bias.

According to Pastor Palmer, implicit bias refers to assumptions or stereotypes that go unnoticed in one’s thought life. These assumptions oftentimes unconsciously affect the way an individual treats another person whose culture is different from their own.

Palmer encouraged those present in the training to split into groups and answer a series of questions using their individual experience within their culture. He asked questions like ‘who was served first at supper in your family?’ and ‘what traditions and celebrations did your family practice during the birth of a child?’ Palmer began conversations about various ways of life among the soldiers in the National Guard and made them aware of the dangers of implicit bias.

“Our own culture could create a barrier to gaining understanding, and a tolerance of others whose culture differs from ours,” said Palmer.

Palmer says when cultural barriers are maintained and an individual refuses to understand someone else’s culture, a cultural collision is created. These collisions are at the core of racist interactions.

However, not all misunderstandings between people of different cultures is intentional. Implicit bias goes undetected by many. This is why the leaders of the KYNG have sought to protect and unify all Guardsmen through education.

As diversity training and open dialogues are encouraged among Soldiers, leaders anticipate a steady shift into a different atmosphere within the Kentucky National Guard, one of unity not despite but because of diversity.

“Acknowledging and understanding all these things are part of the responsibility of leaders, to appreciate not just the cultural aspects but interacting in a way that can make everyone a part of the team,” said Walker.

Soldiers present at the diversity training were challenged to emulate the training within their respective units.

“After he training we received from Pastor Palmer, I couldn't wait to start working with my fellow EO professionals throughout the state to create a similar dynamic and interactive training that will give our Soldiers and Airmen the vocabulary, the facts and the platform to talk with each other and their loved ones about the issues our country, and in extension our organization, are facing right now,” said Sgt. 1st Class Rebecca Wood with the 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade.

With the strategic education of diversity training, Kentucky Guardsmen will be better equipped to recognize and fight the enemy of racism. The future of the Kentucky National Guard is secure in the hope of unity and diversity. We are better together.

“We can't change what happened in the past but we can change the dialogue now and create a better future," said Wood.

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