Living in another’s skin and our own

Ericka Hines has some excellent insights about biases and privileges, with suggestions about how we can learn to recognize and combat them. Tobias Haller reflects on what his experience of privilege teaches him.

She notes (shared with permission from Facebook):

* We cannot self-identify our biases, because most of them are hidden.

* We need to understand that our brains are actually wired to have biases. It is oversimplifying to say “Just ignore them.”

Here are her 10 suggestions on learning about, talking about, and doing something about race and biases:

1. Take the Implicit Bias Test:

2. Acknowledge that you have biases. And know that you are in good company.

3. Learn about privilege. (There is more than white privilege, so

let’s learn which ones we have):

4. Think about how your bias and privileges have benefited you.

5. Have a discussion about that which is real and honest with your kids, friends, your neighbors etc. Maybe consider this:

6. Notice your actions when you next encounter someone who may cause you fear. Do you tug your bag closer? Do you move to the other side of the street? Do you avert your eyes? Do you say things nervously?

7. Be able to tolerate the unpleasant feelings you are having. No really, feel them.

8. Let them go and ask yourself: “Does the person I am looking at now fit the image in my head that is causing me fear/pain/distrust?”

9. Ask yourself what can you do from where you sit to fight against the stereotype.

10. Do not diminish your effort.

Tobias Haller writes:

I have only ever once been accused of shoplifting, at a Pathmark in Yonkers, when the “security” attendant saw me put something in my pocket and failed to recognize it as a shopping list. (What of value in a supermarket he imagined I could put in my pocket, I can not tell, but suffice it to say the incident was embarrassing, angering, and put me off shopping at that store ever again.)

However, I also realize that what was a one-off unpleasantness for me is, for anyone born brown or black in this America, a daily possibility or worse, probability. I recall years ago hearing in shock from one of my African-American brothers in Christ of his experience being challenged as he opened the trunk of his own car as we gathered for an evening meeting in White Plains NY. That simply would never happen to me, in my own skin, which makes me both grateful and furious.

For I do not deserve this favor, nor did he deserve the hassle, nor does anyone deserve to be shot unarmed in the street, strangled on the sidewalk, or pummeled on the highway. The chances of my being challenged as I enter my own home or car are vanishingly small. The possibility I will be shot in the street, unarmed, is almost nonexistent. As a white male I have almost no basis for sympathy with my African-American brothers and sisters on the basis of my own experience, other than my being human, and being at the end of it all saddened and shocked and angry that I live in a racist nation.

There, I’ve said it. I live in a racist nation. Having a black president only goes so far; and I dare say if Barack Obama were wearing a jogging suit on a poorly lit street, not surrounded by Secret Service agents, he might well be challenged if he tried to open the trunk of a car one evening in the aptly named White Plains.

I just want to say, Stop it. Stop it, now….

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