Scrolling down my Facebook’s feed I came across the NPR podcast Invisibilia (if you haven’t listened to it, you should). The podcast explores a wide array of themes around the “invisible forces that control human behavior”; you may find it interesting if (like me) you’re into Psychology, Sociology and the general problems with human interaction. In this particular episode, the hosts talk about a part of us in our conscious that is hidden due to fear of showing it and exposing how we feel about others, in other words, stereotypes and racism. This subject has always resonated with me for various reasons: first, I’m an immigrant and second, the great number of minority groups living in this country and the stereotypes held against each one of them. As any other member of a minority group living in the US, I too have been a victim of stereotypes and racism and listening to this episode (and my Multicultural Issues class in college) made me think and gave me the courage to write about it.
The purpose of this blog is never to call out anyone on their racial comments or judgments, but to raise awareness on how important it is to recognize that we ARE racists; we all have a set of ideas and beliefs against a certain population in society, in some cases, even the one group we belong to. This measure is extremely necessary if we want to modify our behavior towards others. The podcast episode even mentions the existence of a “Racist Anonymous” support group and although it sounds shocking I personally consider this a first step towards change, don’t you?
Obviously, there is no “quick fix” for racism and discrimination but the psychologists interviewed in the podcast episode came up with a series of steps to help people detect wrong misconceptions about others. In order to find out who you ‘secretly’ discriminate against you have to ask the question “who am I?”. Our own identity and culture should be acknowledged and analyzed to find out what we stand for and who or what type of person we want to represent. After studying and evaluation our own personal identity, psychologists recommend that we follow three easy steps to start making a change in ourselves, in this case, we should treat racism and discrimination like we would treat another bad habit we want to get rid of by detecting, reflecting and rejecting. Detect what ideas come to your mind, why do they appear? When do they appear?; reflect without a judgment and make yourself aware that these misconceptions come up in your mind; reject these ideas and stop yourself from habitually making that negative connection or assumption. Always keep in mind that assumptions strengthen a stereotype and that if we want to change a concept we need to give our brain feedback that the concept is incorrect.
While I am perfectly conscious that the war against racism and discrimination might be endless, I also believe that these steps are the best we can do on a personal level if we want to at least start reducing the appearance of stereotypes and racist actions. Let’s teach our children that we all deserve to be treated equally and that our differences in skin color, language, accents, origin and gender make us unique and as important as any other human being; let’s do something about the prevalence of implicit bias and detect, reflect and reject before making assumptions. Eventually, this war might end and even if we’re not here to see it we can provide the new generations with the right tools to start making a change.