Social biases can be extremely difficult to observe in oneself, especially for those of us committed to social equality. However, once we come to accept how commonplace they are and get past being ashamed of them, we can begin to learn from the glimpses we get into our implicit associations.
Today for the first time I gave the finger to a woman in a hijab. I also yelled “you fuck off!” as she had given me the finger first. I had exclaimed about my right of way as a pedestrian when the (male) driver of the minivan she was in cut me off crossing the street. The most interesting thing about this for me is watching my mind try to negotiate the cognitive dissonance of swearing at strangers combined with symbols of religious or at least cultural fidelity. I was shocked at her behaviour especially because of the hijab, I think. Had it been a 20 year old man I’d have felt somewhat different I think, not more or less angry but less betrayed.
Clearly I will get over it, but it also brings home to me how wearing a hijab can make people feel — and perhaps actually become — safer from strangers’ hostility. The cognitive dissonance I experienced would seem to be at last partly due to my sense of respect for the hijab.