How To Dismantle Your Unconscious Biases

#2 Educate yourself

Photo by Daniel Xavier from Pexels

Unconscious bias is present everywhere, it sits within our minds and we don't even realise it at times. Our unintended preferences are created from the narrowed and stereotypical representation of different groups in the media, thus affecting our judgements of those around us.

In research conducted by the University of San Fransisco, California reveals unconscious biases as social stereotypes about certain groups of people that individuals form outside their own conscious awareness. Everyone holds unconscious beliefs about various social and identity groups, and these biases stem from one’s tendency to organise social worlds by categorising.

To address your unconscious biases you need to acknowledge that everyone has them, in some way or another. That bias may pertain to Race, Gender or Religion, biases are prevalent in a plethora of varying areas.

Furthermore, you should take the time to self reflect on some of the unconscious's biases you may have, to become a stronger ally when it comes to advocating for BIPOC.

Moreover, it is a good idea to reflect on your actions and decisions and think about what motivated them. By putting these 4 steps into action you will enable yourself to better understand how unconscious biases can negatively affect BIPOC and then allow yourself better inform others who hold the same views.

Understand the nature of the bias

For example, if we look at how implicit biases may affect your BIPOC colleagues in the workplace. Take a co-worker that has a non-English sounding name and another co-worker that has a traditional English name. Both of these workers have the same qualifications and are both after an opportunity for a higher position in the company.

You should aim to eliminate unnecessary information from the recruitment process. I find that blind hiring will allow for information such as the applicant’s gender, ethnicity, religion, age and education to be removed for presumptions not to be created early on in the recruitment and selection stages. Furthermore, recruiters will rightfully focus on skills and merits as they should.

In research conducted by Bertrand & Mullainathan, 2004 found that fictitious resumes with White-sounding names sent to help-wanted ads were more likely to receive callbacks for interviews compared to resumes with African-American sounding names. Resumes with White-sounding names received 50% more callbacks for interviews.

From personal observation in the workplace, I can allude to the fact that the interviewers held implicit discriminatory thoughts when it came to deciding how would receive a callback. Non-English sounding names were called back at a 50% lower rate due to stereotypical presumptions. It is important to actively aim to unlearn these habits as unconscious bias can have a significant impact on people-related decisions at work, especially when it comes to recruitment, promotion, performance management and idea generation.

Educate yourself

Take a moment to reflect on the range of biases that exist against BIPOC. This includes Gender, Affinity and Conformity Bias just to name a few. Since it may be challenging to identify the biases we may hold without being fully aware of them we need to inform ourselves about the biases that are out there.

Whilst doing this, ensure that you assess and analyse how and why these racial biases have a tremendous influence on the lives of BIPOC. This will help you unlearn some of the biases you hold that may be affecting BIPOC people you encounter and interact with daily.

In research done by PNAS it was discovered that in comparison with white Americans, black Americans exhibit poorer educational outcomes across a range of metrics. One outcome of particular concern is the gap in disciplinary actions Research using administrative datasets and longitudinal samples clearly show that black American students are far more likely to be suspended or expelled and, conditional on an office referral, more likely to receive stiffer punishments.

In many schools, the notion that Black students are difficult to discipline and to educate is quite prevalent. This social schema is widespread and a common belief in an educational setting. Actions have consequences therefore if you think in this way this thought becomes an implication. The implication being that teachers become less inclined to offer Black children support and equal treatment to their white counterparts.

In these situations, we must advocate for equal treatment of children in schools as it could result in a lower standard of education and opportunities.

Have active discussions

Having tough and uncomfortable conversations with others is the only way we can make progress. Sharing your biases can help others feel more secure about exploring their own biases. It’s important to have these conversations in a safe space-individuals must be open to alternative perspectives and viewpoints.

Start by, having conversations with others about addressing biases, this will offer an extended range of perspectives. Also, make an effort to discuss how biases may have affected someone in your close circle. Learn from their experiences and understand how you can become a better ally.

The benefit of this is that it can aid in encouraging others to work on dismantling their biases while making an effort to be a better ally.

When I was in a situation where I was being watched in — for being black — a store for trying to shop by a friend did not understand why it was an issue. It was only after explaining the prejudice behind it that she understood and took into account why it is offensive to profile someone in a store.

From this, she was able to learn about the stereotype that centres around Black people being conceived as ''thieves'' and ''untrustworthy''. This got her to reach a point where she understood how profiling affects BIPOC and dismantle her own bias surrounding this issue.

Hold yourself accountable

I can understand that it may be difficult to hold ourselves accountable as it may be difficult to come to terms with the biases you never knew you had. As humans, we often avoid having instances where we are faced with confrontational settings. Despite, this fear the more we avoid holding ourselves accountable the larger the issue becomes.

Look at it like this, you may think that your biases are harmless and couldn't possibly be contributing to the problem, right?

However, this belief can quickly become harmful to BIPOC, as silence is inaction. Don't fall into the trap of waiting for someone to hold you accountable first, you must be the first one to confront the bias internally.

''Black people's skin is thicker than white skin.''

This statement highlights the racial bias in pain assessment and treatment. Recent evidence suggests that one possible cause of disparities in health outcomes for stigmatized groups is the implicit biases held by health care providers. I have been told that I can easily endure high levels of pain because I have been perceived as a 'Strong Black woman'. This is a common trope that surrounds Black women, this trope is built on racial bias when it comes to Black women and pain tolerance.

HHS Public Access says that their (in healthcare)explicit commitment to providing equal care, some studies suggest that implicit prejudice and stereotyping can impact the judgment and behaviour of health care providers when they interact with stigmatized patients.

This may lead to severe and worrying treatment disparities in healthcare because medical professionals are less treat Black people's health the same way they would a white person's.

To address this problem, health care organizations have proposed, and in some cases tested, new approaches to raising awareness and providing skills for reducing implicit bias in patient care.

If you do hold this belief take the time to think about why you assumed this about Black people. What social filters, stereotypes and tropes have geared you into assuming this. This will make you aware of the biases you hold in regards to this matter or those similar to situations like this. Thereafter, you can deconstruct them and hold yourself accountable.

The takeaway

It is your responsibility to confront your biases, come to terms with them and work on dismantling them.

Your effort may seem minuscule on a large scale, but combined we can tackle this problem. If racial biases are ignored, that affects the lives of BIPOC, if we don't change we won't see any progress.

WEOC Member, Bylines in Momentum, Cultured, AnInJustice, Equality Includes You, The Pink, Illumination, AfroSapiophile and Age of Awareness.

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