Week 14

The video, report, and articles did a great job outlining the disproportionate over/underrepresentation issues Native Hawaiians face in areas like the criminal justice system, healthy lifespans and education. There’s no denying that this is a problem. I was a little shocked and disappointed that there wasn’t a whole lot of thought discussion or possible explanations given as to why these issues are prevalent. Each reading/video, brushed upon it a little bit- there are policies, it’s deeply embedded in our culture, the history of colonialization- but I was hoping that there would be a little more thorough discussing linking these reasons to the deficits and taking it a step further by providing actionable steps we can do on the micro, macro, and mezzo levels in social work.


One of the solutions that came up quite a bit was this understanding of implicit bias. If I hadn’t heard about it before, I probably would have just skimmed over this term and took it for face value. On Vice News, I saw a great implicit bias training different police departments need to go through to reduce unintended shootings. It was a video game simulation where officers would see people of various skin tones holding either a gun or a book. Many of the officers who considered themselves to not be racist were surprised when their simulation results came back and found that they shot more dark skinned humans holding a book than the light skinned humans holding a gun. The reduce this implicit bias and to reduce deaths, they were given exercises like talk therapy, encouraged to look for more visual ques, educated on when to use tasers as opposed to lethal force, and created more policies regarding accountability like wearing body cams. After this training, the Nevada Police Department, one of the nation’s most lethal police departments, saw a huge drop in unintended deaths. This example may be extreme in terms of how to reduce implicit bias in the case of Native Hawaiians, but it shows that once we uncover these things in our mind, there are tangible steps we (social workers, teachers, health care workers, people in the criminal justice system) can take to reduce them. A lot of it just comes from awareness to begin with.


When I think of disparities in our health care system, our kupuna that are missing and our little ones who are starting off already behind, I wonder what the causes are. Epigenetics, decimating traditional food systems and health care practices, trusting Western medicine too much? I don’t think finding answers are all that easy and a correlation does not imply causation. I am passionate about indigenous health disparities and I must say the West isn’t always the best. How is it with the most advanced medical care, we still have these folks disproportionately dying for preventable health related diseases? How is it that with all of our fancy machines, bells, and whistles, we lag year after year with our infant mortality rate. Even Slovakia has a better rate than us. C’mon U.S., really?


While these problems need to be addressed in the Native Hawaiian community, I am sad to say that they’re not unique to just this population. It can be any indigenous population or population that has ever been colonized and stripped of their inherent knowledge. I hope that some of the solutions that were provided will one day be open to everyone, not just the Native Hawaiian community although they perhaps deserve it the most. I really enjoyed hearing about the restorative justice practices, culturally based programs, types of community support, and customized mental health services.



5 thoughts on “Week 14

  1. Thanks for sharing the Implicit bias example of the police department training exercise. Many of the officers being surprised by their results resonsonates for me. I’ve been finding myself a little shaken by awakenings of implicit biases in my life, particularly in the arena of (previously unconscious) micro aggressions. I’d figured since my intentions and motivations were no where near desiring to be biased I was relatively in the clear. I was wrong. I’m finding pockets of subtlety habituated prejudice that I’d never recognized as such…and it’s uncomfortable to find them. I wonder if one of the reasons there isn’t more “actionable steps we can do on the micro, macro, and mezzo levels in social work” is because of the discomfort implicit in facing the reality of these issues to the degree necessary for actionable steps to actually occur. Thanks for the thoughtful post Sharla.


  2. Lauren- Im with ya… the talk and focus in my opinion as well should be on solutions. Its important to educate and even more important to take the next step. I feel that that is what people are waiting for an action to be taken. Those people who have done the work to move things in positive direction via programs and practices are, in m opinion, doing true saintly work. I liked your c’mon US statements about healthcare as well and I can’t agree with you more that the Native Hawaiian population is not the only indigenous group struggling with these issues. Its anyone who has been colonized. For me now its a question of Kuliana, whats mine to help with…or am I getting in the way…this course has been incredible eye opening and humbling to say the least. Thank you for your post – Josh-


  3. Hey Lauren!

    Thank you for your thoughts. Implicit bias, snap judgments, subconscious opinions, whatever one wants to name them, they are the white elephant in the room indeed. As with so many of the concepts we have been delving into during this course, now that it is out in the open, they seem so obvious, so huge and so overwhelming. For example, as you referred to, I also “generally” knew what implicit bias is and how it can make one judge someone unfairly or inappropriately. To the extent that implicit bias leads though, as was highlighted in the readings this week and almost all others, just knocks me back. Even within myself, I tend to think of myself as so “nice, sweet and polite,” and I am, however now that I have become much more aware of my own snap judgments, or things I might think I am entitled to, it is kind of alarming and I realize I have some more work to do.

    This brings me to another point you mentioned which was great, awareness. The study you referred to is fascinating and a perfect example of how pulling out outdated beliefs from one’s subconscious can better serve the individual personally, professionally, within their community and on. The frustrating part (and please forgive this for sounding silly) but the burn is that one cannot become aware of what they are not aware of until someone flashes a light right on it. That will be another gift of this program, is as social workers, and heck just as people, we can help pass this knowledge on to others who may also be interested.

    Thank you as always for a well thought out post!


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