Article by: Callie Albaugh, MA, LAMFT, Michael Borowiak, MSW, LICSW, & Mathew Meyers, MA. LMFT
Racism in America. It shakes us white Americans, it confuses some – “But I’m a good person. I care for others. I try not to judge. How could I be racist?” Looking inward can be difficult; it can highlight areas of ourselves that we try to ignore and hide away. It requires us to ask questions that create discomfort within us and carefully examine our participation, explicit or implicit, in a system that has largely created hurt and endangerment for our neighbors. As people of faith we are called to be reflective and contemplative. We are also called to be voices for the voiceless. This moment in history gives us pause to reflect on ways in which we can elevate voices that have not had an equal pulpit from which to broadcast their messages.
Learn – Let’s learn about implicit bias. An implicit bias is an attitude or stereotype that affects our understanding, actions and decisions in an unconscious manner; these biases are activated involuntarily and without an individual’s awareness or intentional control. These biases can be towards favorable and unfavorable subjects; and reside deep in the subconscious, meaning we cannot access these biases explicitly or willingly (Ohio State University, 2015). These biases are constructed based on messages, policies, and behaviors of the society around us.
Implicit bias is our brain’s fancy, and seemingly helpful, way of making quick connections to alleviate our daily lives. However, they do not always align with our conscious belief system. An example – I may have an implicit bias that police officers love doughnuts. Now, I know that not every single police officer is infatuated with the doughnuts, but my brain may subconsciously make this association due to a lifetime of exposure to direct and indirect messages about police and doughnuts. Some implicit biases may be less harmful – note the example above; other implicit biases may be more harmful – example: black Americans are more violent than white Americans or Asian Americans are better students than other races. And this is why we need to actively educate and reflect so that we may behave differently to change the way our system operates.
Pray – Matthew 7:7-8: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”
We don’t know what we don’t know, but first, we must have a willingness to know more. We have to lay down our armor that protects us – from being wrong, from not protecting and caring for our neighbors fully, from not knowing the right answers – and open arms to looking at our world from a different lens. As humans, we fear the unknown. What we do not know creates discomfort and an anxious distress that we want to avoid at all costs. What we know about Anxiety is that it continues to build and infiltrate our livelihood when we continue to avoid it.
Pray that God to challenges us to look differently at the world around us and how we participate in it. Pray that we are influenced by our upbringing and the privilege that we have that differ from others. Pray that God may give us the strength to move beyond what makes us anxious and bring peace to your journey of growth.
Act – One model, The Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity (DMIS), created by Dr. Milton Bennett. The DMIS is a framework to explain how we experience and engage cultural differences through a 6-step continuum: Denial – Defense – Minimization – Acceptance – Adaptation – Integration (2014). Back to implicit bias. Using this model, we can begin to deconstruct ways in which our implicit bias may keep us from seeing the world differently.
Denial – I do not have any biases
Defense – My biases are relevant and based on how people behave, and I’m not a racist
Minimization – My biases do not impact all that much, and I actually keep them from impacting others
Acceptance – I can see how my implicit bias impact my way of thinking about others
Adaptation – I will disrupt and challenge my biases when they emerge in my behavior
Integration – I will share with others how my implicit biases have impacted me and be open to feedback from others about when they are aware that I may be operating out of biases.
Some believe that our country has been formed upon Christian principles and that justice and equality frame the origins of the country. If we use the DMIS model to reflect on this, it can become clear that there are other ways of seeing the foundations of the country. i.e. Indian boarding schools, the annexing of native American land, broken treaties, intentionally infecting Native American people in an attempt to wipe out tribes of Native Americans.
If I take time to reflect through a different lens, I begin to understand how the groundwork for the kind of police violence towards black men continues at a rate of three-fold white men. When you find yourself in a position of “yeah but I’m not a racist” go back to the model.
Now what will I do?
Resources to Explore:
- The Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity (also known as the Bennet Scale) – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bennett_scale
- Harvard University’s ‘Project Implicit’ – https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/user/agg/blindspot/tablet.htm
- National Museum of African American History & Culture – https://nmaahc.si.edu/
- How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi