Am I Racist?

“The simplistic idea that racism is limited to individual intentional acts committed by unkind people is at the root of virtually all white defensiveness on this topic.”

― Robin DiAngelo, White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism

If you are asking this question, the first thing that you need to know is: racist ≠ a bad person. Everyone has biases. It is an inevitable truth– and doesn’t necessarily constitute someone being a bad person. In a world full of stereotypes, prejudice, and misinformation, people will develop implicit biases, it is whether they choose to recognize their individual biases and check how it affects their decisions and lives that truly constitutes a person’s nature.

What is Implicit Bias?

According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, “Research on ‘implicit bias’ suggests that people can act on the basis of prejudice and stereotypes without intending to do so.” With the social tension and unrest in the U.S. today, people are wanting to understand how to combat their individual implicit biases. The first step to combatting implicit bias is to understand where it comes from.

Implicit bias is a term used to describe how racial stereotypes and assumptions infiltrate our subconscious. People can think or act out in racist ways without knowing that there is anything affecting their decision-making. Implicit bias can develop from the neighborhood that you grew up in, the political beliefs of your parents, where you went to school, even your exposure to peers all the way back in preschool; It doesn’t have to be from direct exposure to specific beliefs.

How do I check my implicit biases?

While you might be unaware these subconscious ideas affecting some of your day-to-day life, you can learn to recognize them. Introspection and mindfulness are incredibly important when attempting to change your thought process.

First, you must explore and identify your own prejudices by taking implicit association tests or through other means of self-analysis. Project Implicit offers a free Implicit Association Test, backed by organizations such as Harvard and the American Bar Association. Books like “White Fragility” by Robin DiAngelo, and “How to Be an Antiracist” by Ibram X. Kendi are good resources to do a deep dive into the history of racism and specific actions that individuals can take on the journey of recognition and systematic change.

After learning which biases you hold, you have to slow things down. Since you’re more likely to give in to your biases when you’re under pressure or stress, practice ways to reduce racing thoughts and increase mindfulness, such as focused breathing. Before interacting with people from certain groups, place yourself in their shoes. What discrimination might they face? What stereotypes have been placed on them? How would they feel as a reaction to what you are about to say or do? Evaluate people based on their personal characteristics rather than other people affiliated with their group.

Lastly, never stop learning about yourself and others. Resisting and combatting implicit bias is lifelong journey. You must constantly repeat the process, look for new ways to improve, and evolve as an individual. Through this process, we can begin to build a foundation for a more amicable future.

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