Unlearn Your Biases

The following is an excerpt from Episode 44 – Unlearn Your Biases. Listen to the whole episode on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

TW: racism

I haven’t yet spoken on this platform about the current state of our country. It’s not that I have chosen to stay silent because I don’t WANT to talk about it, but rather because I was so worried about my words not being perfect or my sentiment getting mixed up in it all. But I know that I don’t have to be perfect in my support of marginalized people or on the topics of various issues. I don’t have to say all of the right things. I just need to speak. So here we go:

I have so much privilege as I am cis, white and straight. Granted, being a woman knocks me down a peg on the privilege scale, but I have so much else going for me that I have never ever in my life felt oppressed or at a disadvantage for what I looked like or who I was born as. I was raised in a small town with virtually no diversity. I grew up believing that big, heavy societal issues such as racism or oppression weren’t that big of a deal, as they didn’t affect me directly and personally.

I’d like to share a story about something that happened in high school. I think it was 2013ish, when a a girl from neighboring high school, a black girl, was dating a white boy from my high school. It was coming up on Prom and she reached out to me to gauge what the response may be at a school where mixed couples weren’t the norm. I remember thinking at first “I don’t know what she would think she wouldn’t be accepted. Of course it would be okay!” But then I took a moment to really think about the environment at my high school, if it truly was welcoming and accepting. My gut reaction was no. I asked myself why the people I spent my life around wouldn’t be open and honestly it was a huge philosophical, ethical question that my privileged teenage brain was not ready for. I never came up with an answer, and to be honest, I wasn’t too concerned about it at the time. And even though I never came up with an all-encompassing answer to why racism and biases exist, I came out with my first real-life privilege check.

Honestly, it was the first time that I actually had to real-life check my privilege. The moment made me want to make my high school more open, make my friends more open, my family more open. That girl reaching out was one of my first head on experiences and looks into the world I was living in. I recognized that while I may be open to others, may look at inter-racial relationships as no big deal, as being gay as okay, that humans are humans and deserve all the same thing, that’s just not enough – I have to make sure others are open too, that others are welcoming, that others lift up the underprivileged and marginalized.

I was reminded of this moment in high school when the girl of topic simply commented on my Juneteenth Instagram post. When I reached out to her and told her this, she told me she was scared to death about Prom at my high school and that my support helped. It was good to hear, that even as an ignorant, blissful, blind teenager, I could life someone else up. But that got me to thinking about what or if I’ve done much of anything to combat injustices and biases since…

We have been having many conversations in my house, with friends and family. Some of them hard, some of them eye-opening, and many of them ending with my empathetic heart shattering into a million pieces until I’m so overwhelmed with sadness and guilt for the state of the world today that I just pass out from exhaustion. Okay, that was a bit dramatic, but what else do you expect here? 

Anyways, one conversation that I’ve had brought up something that I’ve kept in the back of my head for quite some time, that I think will help those of you that are in a similar situation to me mentally. The sentiment has really help me confront my inherent biases and redirect my unconscious and conscious thinking. The idea is that the first thought that comes to your mind is what you are conditioned to think, and the second thought is your true feelings. So, when presented with a situation, the first thing that you think or feel is your conditioned response, the one that you’ve been taught and learned since birth. The second thought, though, is your matured and better-rounded feeling towards the matter.

For example, when I’m walking down the street at night and I pass by a group of Black men, my first instinct may be to be nervous or scared. But why? I must ask myself. Am I afraid because they’re a group of men and I am a woman? Am I scared because they are Black? All in a split second, these musings go over in my head, which lead to my second thought – that I should be ready to protect myself at all times because the world is crazy, but they are normal people just like me, walking down the street just like me. Do y’all understand what I’m saying? It’s okay to be scared when walking alone. But it’s not okay to be afraid of someone due to the color of their skin.

Another example: Say you see a Black woman raising hell in the grocery store. She’s angry, mad, maybe yelling at a worker. Maybe your first thought is “Black women are always angry and yelling!” SCURT, Nope. That is what we have been conditioned to think. Conditioned and taught to compartmentalize that all black women are angry and loud. We’ve learned to stereotype them from movies and media. Now the second thought, the true thought, will be something more like, “That lady is angry about something but shouldn’t be yelling like that at a worker!” See? A correction on the learned and conditioned bias that assumes because the woman is Black, which is why she is angry. ((Please notice how I don’t make any excuses for her, though. No one should be yelling at a someone doing their job – remember my episode on service industry horror stories??)) I will make no excuses for a woman yelling at a worker, but I have to check myself to think: Is my distaste towards this woman because she is yelling at a store, at a worker? Or am I characterizing her as just another Black woman yelling, angry and loud?

This conscious checking of your thoughts will help you confront those inherited biases and help you check where you are. This sentiment was brought up during my my extensive worrying and research over how I can be a better ally as someone with so much privilege. I’ve learned that even though my intentions are to do better, I still have to battle every single day with my inherited biases. I still have to check myself constantly and check my privilege, check where I came from and check how I think. Just because I want to be an ally doesn’t mean I’m always doing my best.

I hope that this made sense. I really do. I know that sometimes topics like this do not compute on the first try. So, if you want to reach out to me and you want to learn more, if you want to better understand and want me to clarify – I’m down, hit me up.

If you are out there and you want to check me – please do.Reach out to me, to hold me accountable, honestly. I never said that I wouldn’t say anything wrong. I know I’m not the most educated on this topic, but the reason why I haven’t said anything yet is because I was afraid I was going to say it wrong. But I’m over trying to be perfect, and I wanted to get this sentiment across and help those that are in my same situation. The people that are allies, want to be allies, want to be better allies, or even if you’re just wanting to start to day to try to be a better person.

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