On Implicit Racial Bias: An Epic Blog

Uncategorized Oct 11, 2018

You can check your implicit racial bias if you are willing to do the work.

A lot of folks have written or are talking about implicit bias.  I recommend Jerry Kang’s excellent Ted Talk "Immaculate Perception" and this NPR story on the Yale study of Racial Bias Amongst Pre-School Teachers.  

The data on implicit bias in health, criminal justice, education, employment is so consistent that it can be daunting.  There’s very little readily available information on how to stop implicit racial bias.

Well, I decided to do something about it.

In this blog post I include ideas and suggestions from a variety of sources to recommend 5 steps that people who want to be part of the solution can take to stop their own implicit racial bias.  

This blog post is a tool to help yourself--before you go and suggest what others need to do. Start taking these actions and see what happens in your world. To help you do these steps systematically and to create some accountability, I’ve started a Stop the Hurt 5 Day Challenge.  It’s free and starts on Oct. 29 at 9am. Get more info here.

Step One

The first step is to cultivate awareness of implicit racial bias.  Today take the Harvard Implicit Association Test.  Notice your feelings about your results.  I wrote about my feelings in:  If You're Black, Jump Back.

Notice implicit bias on television, social media images and stories, in comments about "good schools" or "sketchy neighborhoods," etc.  One way to test if there's implicit bias at play is to shift the point of view of the story. For example, ask if a straight white man in a business suit would be subject to the same characterizations, treatment, etc. as the person of color in a given news story or movie storyline.  Why have we never had a Black 007? Wonder about these things out loud with your children, spouse, business partner, parents, etc. Say it to another human being.

Step Two


Look around your home, office, computers, phones etc. and remove any images or audio that reinforces negative stereotypes.  This could include having ONLY European American images. By omission or over-representing European Americans, you are implicitly dismissing the presence, value, contributions of people of color.  So, it can be subtle.

I recommend listening to Guante's spoken word piece: How Do You Explain White Supremacy to a White Supremacist.  If you want to hear what it feels like to be stereotyped check out, Walking While Black.

Step Three


Add audio and visual cues that promote positive associations with people of color.

Feed your subconscious something positive.  Just as you would deliberately include healthy life affirming food in your diet, you need to give yourself positive audio and visual EVERY DAY.  Make it a positive habit to consume something at the beginning and/or at the end of your day.

In  Why I Love my Black Yoga Teacher---and You Should Too, I argue that having Black people in positions of authority is psychologically beneficial to everyone, especially people of color.  If you want to see beautiful, arresting images of Black people in documentary style photographs check out Arvia Walkers’ **The Coming of the Sun** website

Step Four

Go towards what you fear.

Do you remember Obama's speech about race in 2008?  He mentioned his grandmother's automatic fear of Black men.  What are you afraid of? Can you talk about that with someone?  

Now this step is a little tricky.  I want you to step outside your bubble and go towards a culture or demographic that you have some anxiety or discomfort.  Do this respectfully by supporting or participating in something that is public. For example, visit a church that says all are welcome.  Check out a mosque or a temple and confirm that your participation would be welcome. Maybe walk into a bookstore or art gallery that focuses on people of color.  If you can't do the actual visit today, then set up an appointment. Artists almost always welcome support from diverse audiences.

Check out this music video Make America Great not the Land of Hate Again.  Do you recognize any of the heroes and sheroes mentioned? Add them to your library, playlist, or wall of quotes.

Step Five


Step Five is:  Talk about Racism, especially your own implicit racial bias.

This step comes from my Racial Justice from the H.E.A.R.T. System.  In this case I'm asking you to reflect on your fragility--defensiveness, wounds, guilt, shame , etc regarding white supremacy and racism.  I wrote about how the lack of honest self-reflection leads to breakdowns between white women and black women in Black Women; White Women--The Rub.

Talking about racism is not easy.  I teach you how to lean in and take a seed planting approach to difficult conversations about racism in this TEDx Talk "How to Lean into Conversations about Race..." .

Join the Stop the Hurt 5 Day Challenge!

If you’d like to be set your intention and attention on stopping your own implicit racial bias with us, please join the Stop the Hurt 5 Day Challenge.  We begin Monday Oct. 29- Friday Nov. 2. Make sure you click here to join us!


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