Lent. Day 10.
Watch your bias.
If you encounter a person of color and find yourself thinking, “he’s so well spoken,” or “she seems white,” recognize the core of what you have in mind that you want to communicate.
“He’s so well spoken” alludes to surprise. It means that in your mind, by default, black people aren’t well spoken.
Hear yourself have this thought.
Catch it. Do NOT say it out loud.
Tell yourself: “this is part of racism and it’s essential to change this way of thinking.”
Something I’ve learned in my reading on this project is that part of the racism problem we face in this country is that people of color are lumped into entire groups, where an interaction with an individual is used to judge the entire people group… whereas white people have the privilege of being treated as individuals.
(We will talk more about this in the coming days, as it concerns looking for racism and bias in the world around you.)
There are well spoken white people. And well spoken black people. We expect white people to be well spoken and *might* judge them if they’re not. Or might make excuses for them – oh, well, Sally must have grown up on TV, kids these days and their texting language, the school system….
The difference is, we might think, “Jim has a really solid vocabulary, that’s pretty rare these days. Jim must really prioritize that, or have been really well educated.” But about Jim’s black friend, we think, “he’s well spoken (for a black guy.)” We’re still thinking about him as a representation for his whole race – and about his race defaulting to less.
It’s good in these situations to meet the person in front of you and interact with them as a whole person. See who he is, even through your biases as you work to change them – he’s black, he has a great vocabulary, he loves his family, his favorite food is sushi, he likes to swim, he’s a good listener, he loves movies. “Wow, I’m so glad I met William.” Let this shape the way you think of black people only in that they are just as individual as we are and it fails everyone to assume things about a whole race based on one person or interaction.
If you want to say something about the person of color you’ve just met and liked, I suggest using words you might use for someone which your bias lets you default to seeing as your equal.. like, “I’m so glad I met you.” “You’re really great.” “Thank you for being open with me.”
Edited to add, BONUS content.
An exercise in dissecting bias.
What do you think the core of “he/she seems white” bias is?
Will you unpack that with me in the comments, or a private message?