I read an article in the New York Times called "We're All a Little Biased, Even If We Don't Know It," by Emily Badger. It's true that we all have biases and that they will always be there. They are created by our experiences, by our preferences, and by being taught at a young age what to like and not like.
Those influences are social in nature, so that means we have the ability to decrease our implicit biases. We use our biases as shortcuts to make quick decisions in certain situations, such as police officers knowing the difference between a bad guy with a gun or an innocent bystander. Split second decisions like these can mean life or death for some folks, or it can mean gaps in education and opportunity for students of color. Implicit biases have far reaching and long lasting consequences, whether we want to admit it or not.
Implicit biases are one of the reasons that social inequities persist. And not addressing our biases doesn’t lessen it or make it go away. Finding ways to change or respond to some of our negative biases can be beneficial for us in the long run. It’s also good for society, too.
Here are 4 things you can do to help minimize implicit biases:
1. Challenge your current negative biases about specific groups with contrary or positive information that goes against negative stereotypes.
2. Be empathetic. Many people may not have friends who are black, Latinx, LGBTQ, or differently-abled. It’s harder to be empathetic towards them. Find ways to learn more about racial or ethnic groups you do not interact with, if that’s reading a book, or watching a movie/documentary.
3. See differences. The idea of being colorblind actually negates or minimizes a person’s lived experience. If we don’t find opportunities to learn more about other historically marginalized groups we miss opportunities to make friends.
4. Engage in dialogue with others about their biases. When we see people being discriminated against based on stereotypes, we’re afraid to step up. But being an ally or an advocate for people experiencing bias helps us create positive experiences for ourselves and them.
Allies & Advocates is a community response program that nurtures and supports individuals experiencing heightened anxiety, uncertainty, or incidents of hate/bias in this challenging social and cultural climate.
You don’t have to do all of these, but try one and see what a difference it can make. We won’t be able to get rid of biases altogether. However, we can learn not to allow them to control our decision-making. There’s nothing wrong with understanding our preferences. Having negative biases doesn’t mean you’re a bad person; it just means there is still some work that needs to be done.
Step out of your comfort zone, and challenge your biases. It will be scary, it won’t be easy, and I guarantee you’re not going to like it. But, we will be better for it and at the end of the day, isn’t that what we want?
In the words of Spock from Star Trek, "May you live long and prosper."
Additional Readings and Resources:
“We’re All a Little Biased, Even if We Don’t Know It,” by Emily Badger
“The Far-Reaching Effects of Implicit Bias in the Classroom,” by Cindy Long
“How to Overcome Our Biases? Walk Boldly Toward Them,” TEDx Talk by Vernā Myers
“Overcoming Implicit Bias and Racial Anxiety: Fighting Subconscious Bias Takes Effort – But it can be done,” by Linda Tropp and Rachel Godsil
Take a Test – Project Implicit – Harvard University