Understanding Our Racial Bias

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It is so easy to misjudge people you have just met or know very little about. This is especially true when the person you have met is from a different ethnic group. Many times preconceived notions that have developed over the years can become “the way” we initially view others who are different than our own culture. This kind of subliminal racial bias can cause us to misinterpret others when we are interviewing an applicant for a construction job, or when we are interviewing for a construction position.

Raina Kelley makes an excellent point in her recent article in Newsweek where she says, “I do not think we are a nation of people secretly yearning to scream racial epithets and reinstate Jim Crow. I think we are a nation of people deeply influenced by the stereotypes endlessly perpetuated in our culture. The sassy black hairdresser, the Asian computer geek, the ditzy blonde, the dorky white guy, and the cool black best friend—each of them are stock characters in our culture. So it is not difficult to believe that we have automated this stereotyping to the point where it happens not in our conscious mind but in its operating system—working in the back of the brain to help process the reams of information coming at us from every direction.”

What is critical to realize is that for most of us, being human and living in a particular culture, predisposes us to some form of innate racial bias. By being open minded and allowing our prejudices to soften, can open up all sorts of possibilities. One of the best ways to do this is get out of our shells and go out and work with and socialize with other types of ethnic groups.

Kelley adds, “So, that's the bad news: we're all racists. But there's good news, too: we're all racists. Knowing we all stereotype and that we all fit a stereotype should make us more open to discussions about our differences. I know it's hard to step out of our comfort zones and bring our unconscious biases into the light of day. But it may be the only way to get rid of them. When you are unaware of attitudes or stereotypes, they can unintentionally affect your behavior," wrote Prof. Anthony Greenwald, the lead researcher on the study. "Awareness can help to overcome this unwanted influence."

Just becoming aware of our racial stereotypes can be a critical first step in helping us travel the path where we learn and understand more about others who are different than ourselves. Awareness can help all of us become more open minded and tolerant of others. There is one last point I want to make: Remember the law of karma applies here as well. That is, the more open minded you and I are with other ethnic groups, the more open minded they will be with you and me.

Tom Borg is a consultant in leadership management, team building and customer service. Please see more of his blogs at csjobsblog.com and businessworkforceblog.com To view additional job postings at Nexxt

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