The eruption of Black Lives Matter protests sparked discussions on social media about how to be a better ally for Black people. These discussions led to further conversations about becoming an ally for all marginalized groups.
Being an ally in real life requires all of us to not make baseless judgments and see people for who they really are. In order to do that, we must recognize that a lot of us have implicit bias.
An implicit bias is an unconscious influence on our perceptions and actions toward a specific group of people, often created by what we see in the media and in our communities.
In order to become a better ally, we must recognize that we have an implicit bias and learn how to rectify it. Here are basic steps to take to fix your bias:
1) Recognize your implicit bias.
First and foremost, recognize if you have an implicit bias. The truth is most people do have an implicit bias because of the stereotypical portrayals we see of people in the news, movies, and TV shows. This is especially true for portrayals of people of color (POC).
For instance, next time you’re watching a show where there are very few people of color, observe how these characters are being portrayed.
Are they acting according to certain stereotypes that are placed on their race? Are they portrayed as caricatures exaggerating specific traits rather than as complex individuals? Implicit bias exists deep within the media, so a good place to start to begin recognizing implicit bias is through those outlets.
Once you recognize these biased portrayals, think about whether you possess any of these yourself. This is not a time to cower from your mistakes. You need to objectively examine your own mind and think back to if you ever unfairly judged a person solely based on their race or ethnicity. Think clearly and carefully.
As kids, we were taught to never judge a book by its cover. Well, it’s time to take that principle and apply it to your own mindset.
2) Educate yourself.
Now that you’ve recognized your implicit bias, take the time to educate yourselves on these different groups. Many streaming services right now have categories for amplifying Black voices, so take the time and watch something about Black families and other POC. Educating yourself via movies and shows can be both entertaining and enlightening.
Through these platforms, you are being given a glance of what life is like for different groups. You are learning about the microaggressions and discrimination people face in their daily life and this often only covers the surface.
In addition to watching something, pick up a book on racial justice or listen to an audiobook. Learn from experts on the subject matter and take notes while you read.
By hearing firsthand accounts of racism tied in with facts and statistics about systemic racism, you will learn about the subject probably more than you ever did in school. You can refer to this article which lists a few books you can read to get started.
3) Listen to people around you.
This last step is extremely crucial to overturning your implicit bias. While it’s important to recognize your bias and educate yourself, it’s equally important to listen to those around you, those who have had these experiences you are just starting to learn about.
There are many BIPOC influencers on social media who share resources, personal anecdotes, and suggestions about how to be a better ally. Sure, looking at what celebrities are reading to educate themselves can be helpful, but the best way to learn more about a group of people is to learn directly from them and take in consideration the resources they may provide.
I must emphasize that it is not the job of a BIPOC to teach others about racial discrimination. Some of them do this by choice, not because they have to. It’s important to remember that.
Continue to do your own research, but also make sure you are not discounting BIPOC voices when they speak out. If your friend points out that a comment you made was insensitive, then stop and listen to the reason instead of becoming defensive. This is your time to learn, so be appreciative and attentive.
There are certainly other things you can do to combat your implicit bias, but these are just a few ways to get started on your journey to becoming a better ally. These are not part of a set formula so you may have to revisit a step when you catch your biases emerging again.