Explaining Racism with compassion.
A message from Ryan Dowd
A Message from Ryan Dowd including a link to Harvard's implicit bias test
From: Ryan Dowd
Sent: Tuesday, June 16, 2020 11:02 AM
To: Tom Meyer
Subject: Homeless Tip: Unconscious racism
Structural racism is a BIG problem.
It is (obviously) supported by overt racism.
It is also supported by a more complicated (and widespread) form of racism: implicit bias.
According to the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Ohio State University, implicit bias is:
…the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner… Residing deep in the subconscious, these biases are different from known biases that individuals may choose to conceal for the purposes of social and/or political correctness.
In other words, implicit bias is made up of the prejudices that we unconsciously have towards all sorts of people. Everyone single person on the planet has them. It is part of the human condition. You can't completely rid yourself of implicit bias.
Most Americans (even many African-Americans) have implicit bias against African-Americans.
The Reverend Jesse Jackson once said, "There is nothing more painful to me at this stage in my life than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery — then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved."
What should you do about your own implicit bias?
Become aware of it. Acknowledge it. Own it.
Then work to overcome it.
If implicit bias is unconscious, how do you become aware of it?
Harvard University to the rescue!
Researchers from Harvard (and some other great universities) have created an online test that is pretty much impossible to fake. There are a multitude of tests you can take that test your implicit bias around race, age, religion, gender, disability, etc. I recommend—at a minimum—that you take the "Race IAT"
The website is https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/takeatest.html
The last time I took the tests I discovered:
* I have an unconscious bias against African-Americans. This sucks. It also isn't surprising given the fact that I am a white American.
* I have an unconscious bias for eastern religions (Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism) and against western religions (Christianity, Islam, Judaism). This one surprised me, since I (and just about everyone I know) fits into the second category!
I am not proud of either of these biases, but it is better to be aware of them. That allows me to work on them and make sure I don't act on them.
Do yourself (and the world) a favor. Take some of the Harvard tests. Once you understand your implicit biases, you:
* Can try to be more aware of them and guard against treating people poorly because of your unconscious thought processes.
* Will be better equipped to fight structural racism!
One more time - in case it's still unclear.
400 years ago, white people brought black people over here and enslaved them, sold them and treated them as less than human. For 250 years, white men formed the country, created its laws and its systems of government. For 10-15 generations, white families got to grow and flourish and make choices that could make their lives better.
150 years ago, white people "freed" black people from slavery. But then, angry white people created laws that made it impossible for "freed" slaves to vote, own land, or have the same rights as white people. The white people erected monuments glorifying people who actively had fought to keep people enslaved. For another 5-10 generations, white families got to grow, accumulate wealth, gain land and get an education.
60 years ago, white people made it "legal" for black people to vote and be "free" from discrimination. But angry white people still fought to keep schools segregated and closed off/built neighborhoods for white people only. They made it harder for black people to get bank loans, quality education or health care, and to (gasp) marry a white person.
Another 2-3 generations of white families got to grow and pass their wealth down to their children and their children's children.
Now, we have entered an age where we have the technology to make PUBLIC the things that were already happening in private: beatings, stop and frisk laws, unequal distribution of justice, police brutality (police began in America as slave patrols designed to catch runaway slaves). Only now, after 400+ years and 20+ generations of a white head start, are we STARTING to truly have a dialog about what it means to be black in America.
White privilege doesn't mean you haven't suffered or fought or worked hard. It doesn't mean white people are responsible for the sins of their ancestors. It doesn't mean you can't be proud of who you are.
It DOES mean that we need to acknowledge that the system our ancestors created is built FOR white people.
It DOES mean that we aren't disadvantaged because of the color of our skin.
It DOES mean that we owe it to our neighbors-- of all colors-- to acknowledge that and work to make our world more equitable.