Let’s end bias together

by | Dec 1, 2022 | What’s Happening

Jessica Nordell: Thursday, December 8, 7:30 pm, Sandler Family Campus


Several years ago, a Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities’ board member said that he hoped our organization would one day work ourselves out of business. The notion stuck with me—that our work should be so successful that we no longer need an organization like VCIC in our Commonwealth. Unfortunately, the last few years have seen a very different reality, with a documented rise in bias resulting in significantly increased demand for VCIC’s programs and services. While dedicated individuals and organizations are steadfastly working to combat bias, the problem can feel overwhelming to address. From antisemitic leaflets left in yards, to a rise in racist slurs on social media, to policies that target the transgender community, we hear about bias more and more.

In this critical moment, a recently published book provides instructive examples and a roadmap for all of us to more effectively understand, address, and ultimately prevent bias. The End of Bias: A Beginning: The Science and Practice of Overcoming Unconscious Bias is a thoughtful, research-based, and highly practical text. Author Jessica Nordell shares clear examples to help the reader understand how bias manifests and what we can do about it. She draws on over 1,000 studies and hundreds of interviews in the book. Nordell’s professional background as a science and culture journalist brings rigor to her exploration of bias, and her degree in poetry comes through in the accessible tone of her writing.

Early on in The End of Bias, the author makes an important distinction, reframing what has become widely known as “unconscious bias” with the label “unexamined bias.” She also contextualizes bias, making it clear that what are often seen as individual, isolated acts are really reflections of broader patterns within institutions and throughout society. The research she shares reveals that even well-intentioned people—and people who do not think they have bias—can act based on biases. These distinctions are important in helping the reader understand the problem of bias, and then consider key interventions. Nordell shares a wide range of evidence-based solutions to help individuals and organizations “de-bias.”

In anticipation of Nordell’s visit for the Jewish Book Festival, a group of community leaders have come together for a three-part book discussion. With diverse representation from education, business, religion, healthcare, government, law enforcement, and nonprofit organizations, the conversations are enriching and challenging. Participants have said how helpful the book is, with understandable and practical tips that can be immediately put to use.

The broader community also has the wonderful opportunity to hear from Jennifer Nordell on December 8 at the Reba and Sam Sandler Family Campus. The conversation is sure to be educational and empowering. If you are wondering what you can do to make a difference, be sure to attend, and then let’s work together to make it so.

While there is still so much to do to address bias, Nordell’s work helps us understand what it will take to achieve that aspiration of a society that no longer needs organizations like the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities.

Pre-registration is required for this free and open to the community event, as part of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater and Simon Family JCC’s Lee & Bernard Jaffe Family Jewish Book Festival, in partnership with UJFT’s Jewish Community Relations Council, Jewish Family Service of Tidewater, the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities, and Virginia Wesleyan University’s Robert Nusbaum Center.

To register, visit JewishVA.org/bookfest or contact JCRC assistant director, EMednick@ujft.org.

Jonathan C. Zur is president and CEO of the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities.

Jonathan C. Zur