I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts recently, and this particular episode, like many others, was covering a topic that I have never considered, but is SO relevant to my life. The speaker told a story about a white man with an adopted black daughter who thought he held no negative views toward black people. The speaker went on to describe a case of mistaken identity that proved the man held views about black people even he was not aware of. In the story the man was on his way to his gym when he saw a black man walking to a bus stop where a white woman was sitting. For some reason he felt that the situation was “suspicious”, he couldn’t put his finger on it, but the scene just didn’t seem right to him. He eventually figured out that he was tripping without incident but the topic led me to reflect over some of my views and thoughts about race. More specifically I wondered….do I do this? Do I make assumptions about people based on the stereotypical notions I have about their perceived race?
The podcast called the phenomenon “Implicit Bias” and defined it loosely as “biased” behavior that isn’t intentional or is well intentioned, yet stereotypical or low key shady depending on the situation. The man in the podcast wasn’t intentionally thinking that black men hurt white women, but his subconscious felt the fact that black man approaching white woman danger to him. Thinking about my day to day life, I interact with people of all races and cultures every day, and I’d like to think that I respect them. (As I’m sure we all do.) As far as my upbringing, most of my friends and family are some variation of Black American and I don’t have a lot of other races in my immediate family. The town I grew up in was small, mostly Black, White, and Hispanic. I really became more culturally aware in college. I had way more friends that were from different backgrounds, countries, races…. that’s where I learned so much about the world outside of my bubble of existence. Based on my interactions with my classmates, colleagues and friends I never thought I had any implicit bias until this podcast piqued my interest.
Fast forward a couple weeks, I start to notice something that reminds me of the podcast as I am out driving for Lyft. I live in a fairly large city and I have a pretty diverse group of riders in my car on a day to day basis. After listening to the podcast I began to pay close attention to my comfort level with people during the ride to see if I could be exhibiting some the signs of an “implicit bias”. Normally I will try to anticipate what type of music the rider will enjoy based on what they look like when I pick them up. (Pure entertainment), or I will flip through stations to see if a passenger will react to something they like. I personally like rap…….rap, hip hop, r&b, and but I have everything on deck to ensure a convenient and comfortable ride. I noticed that the people I think want Maroon 5 want future, and the ones I think want Metallica want Lil Wayne……… and speaking of Lil Wayne, that leads me to the night that the true meaning of the podcast really hit home.
One night I picked up an Asian guy. Maybe between 25-35, small build, wearing a t-shirt, jeans and a cap. I immediately turned down the Carter 5 that I was listening to when he got into the car and hoped that he wouldn’t mind too much cursing. He spoke, I spoke, luckily it was the last cut on the album. Once the song ended, he asked me “What was your favorite song on the album”, and like a Mack truck, it hit me. I realized that I DO have an implicit bias.
I legit assumed that he would not like the music because he was Asian. There was no other reason. I didn’t know anything about him. The rest of the night I was replaying all of the instances that could have been implicit bias. Like when I avoid a certain place even though I haven’t been just because its on a certain side of town, or I avoid a certain brand because another product I have tried didn’t work well. Those are weak examples, but that bias is there.
Looking at my interaction with other races as a whole with this new lens of implicit bias, I realized that I can be pretty insensitive sometimes and make generalizations about people based on factors that are not necessarily reflective of someone’s character, because that was all of the information available to me before I had the opportunity to befriend people of other cultures. Having friends however, does not give you a license to apply your experience with them or your stereotypical beliefs to all people of a certain gender, race, ethnicity, or fan club. But as the old saying goes, once you know better, you can do better, And I will! Do any of you all have any implicit biases? Any generalizations you make about people? Where do you think they came from?