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Collaborative Resolutions

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Implicit Biases and Micro-aggressions

There has been a lot of chatter over the last year or so regarding micro-aggressions, and their impact on marginalized groups. An incident in the NBA this past week illustrates how they happen, how they impact people, and a great way to react to an observation of one if you are a cisgendered, white male. Last week, Phil Jackson, General Manager of the New York Knicks, had this to say about LeBron James, a player for the Cleveland Cavaliers, and his friends and business associates:

You can't hold up the whole team because you and your mom and your posse want to spend an extra night in Cleveland. I always thought Pat had this really nice vibe with his guys. But something happened there where it broke down. I do know LeBron likes special treatment. He needs things his way. [emphasis added] 

A lot of people observed the coded nature of the word "posse" and called Jackson out on it. A lot of people had a lot to say about whether Jackson was or was being racist. LeBron said this in response:
It just sucks that now at this point having one of the biggest businesses you can have both on and off the floor, having a certified agent in Rich Paul, having a certified business partner in Maverick Carter that's done so many great business [deals], that the title for young African-Americans is the word ‘posse.
At the end of the day, it often doesn't matter what your intent was, it is the listener who will often define your meaning, and this is especially true when talking about micro-aggressions. A lot of people get distracted by the coinversation about whether they intended the micro-agression, whether they intended to be discriminatory. A better reaction for you and your team is the one evidenced by this statement from Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy:
"I’m going to be perfectly honest here, I've used that word before, OK. And when that all came out I had to ask myself, have I ever used that word before with a white player, and the answer is no. So, I think, look, you have to be aware of the language and you have to be aware a little bit of your own biases if you're going to overcome them and so I took that seriously."
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