Becoming aware of conscious and unconscious bias opens up dialogue that may be uncomfortable, but will contribute to a just and inclusive society. There are many great resources to jump-start the process.
George Floyd’s tragic death has brought together communities, from all backgrounds, in solidarity to demand long overdue racial justice and equality.
As a result, we are now collectively examining structural racism and its impact in a way that hasn’t ever been done before.
This examination has introduced many of us to the terms “anti-racist” and “anti-racism.” However, the definition may not be totally clear:
Anti-racism is the active process of identifying and eliminating racism by changing systems, organizational structures, policies and practices and attitudes, so that power is redistributed and shared equitably. —NAC International Perspectives: Women and Global Solidarity
These power imbalances grant unearned benefits and advantages to those who are white—also known as white privilege—that marginalized communities do not receive.
Yet, white privilege is something many of us from the white community are not even aware of and may even deny.
In 1989, Peggy McIntosh wrote an essay, “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack,” reflecting on the unearned benefits she unknowingly received as she moved through her world every single day.
This foundational essay also highlighted conscious and unconscious bias in our society.
Tricia Ebarvia incisively points out the source of bias:
Those in power act out of self-interest. Thus, they enact racist policies (slavery, immigration, redlining) to maintain that power….
These policies then result in racial inequities (lack of wealth or education)….
Which lead to the development of racist ideas by others who see these inequities and need a reason to justify why these inequities exist (example: [Black, Indigenous, People of Color] must be ‘less than’).
Seeing Blind Spots
For those of us who are white, becoming aware of our blind spots is a process that will make us stronger allies and change agents. And there is exceptional information available to guide this internal work.
- Emmanuel Acho has been advancing dialogue with his new Instagram-streamed series, “Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man.”
- Berkeley University provides insightful anti-racist resources on uncovering and overcoming bias and reducing bias in our children.
- Rhonda Magee’s work highlights how mindfulness reduces implicit bias, as awareness helps disrupt automatic, biased ways of thinking.
- Robin DiAngelo—a white academic—has written numerous pieces, including “White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard to Talk to White People About Racism.”
Doing the Work
This is only a small list of excellent information. However, becoming aware of conscious and unconscious bias, white privilege, and attribution errors opens up honest conversations.
And from this point, we who are white can attempt to better understand systemic racism, inequality, and the experiences of marginalized groups.
Such awareness makes an inclusive, just, and sustainable society much more possible, as we work together to find solutions.