The Red Eye just had a fascinating article in it the other day titled,"Raise Your Hand If You're Biased."It went on to talk about new research that indicates that while overt racism is scarce, subtle/underground/unconscious bias is still alive and well. I'm wondering if other people read this article and how it made them feel. Did you feel offended because the article suggested that even well-intended open-minded people still harbor racist beliefs? Did you feel guilty because there are times when you notice those beliefs in you? Did you feel relieved because someone said it aloud?
In psychology graduate school, especially the school that I attend, we talk about diversity a lot. At first it felt uncomfortable to talk about race, gender, social class - everyone is terrified to be misunderstood or to accidentally offend someone - but the more we talked, the easier it became. We talked about our experiences and how we have been treated based on some element of difference, but we also explored our own biases and stereotypes. Again, very scary to really look within and then put words to beliefs you don't even want to admit that you have. So if this process is so scary and difficult, why did my school have entire classes with this being the sole purpose? Because awareness of our own biases is the first step toward reducing them.
The Presidential Election coming up in November will be a fantastic time to begin challenging yourself as an African American male and a Woman are potentially in the running. Who is your candidate of choice? Now if you say John McCain, the question becomes: WHY? Now your first response may have to do with the war in Iraq, foreign policy, or the climate crisis, but look deeper. What are your thoughts about women? How about Black men? What messages did you get about either of these groups growing up? What do media images try to tell us about these groups? How much interaction do you have with each of these groups? When you have had meaningful interactions, have they been positive or negative? These are just a few of the questions you can ask yourself to begin to explore your biases.
So what do you do when you find them? Be aware of them. Be especially aware of them when you're interacting with someone who falls in a group that you have some stereotype about. The other really important thing you can do is learn. Check outhttp://www.whiteprivilidge.com/for a definition of this important concept and think about how it relates to you. Then check out theWhite/Majority Identity Development and/or Racial Identity Development. Where do you fall? Are you denying that racism still exists in America? Do you know it exists and feel angry about it? Are you open to learning more about it? In a time where the world seems be losing its collective mind, its always comforting for me to know at least I can work to improve myself. When we stop breeding hate, the world will be a better place in which to live. So, as Gandhi said, “be the change you want to see in the world.”