I am biased. You are, too. Let’s accept it. Bias is an ingrained part of human nature. We all have preconceived notions, stereotypes, and biases that influence our thoughts, actions, and interactions with the world around us. However, the way our brains navigate the world and interact with every social environment we’re in, we NEED to have biases and generalizations. Our brains need to have shortcuts so they can function efficiently, and we don’t have to use cognitive resources constantly when we’re interacting with others. So yes, if I see a group of men walking in my direction at night, I will cross the street. Because of these shortcuts, however, we have to fight our brains to become good people, so we don’t naturally assign these stereotypes to everyone. How do I beat my brain? Glad you asked…
There’s a process I want you, yes I mean YOU, To gain from this: Learn, unlearn, relearn…
These biases are often deeply ingrained and can be challenging to recognize, let alone overcome. You must LEARN your own biases fully and wholeheartedly. One of the most difficult aspects of confronting bias is that it often operates at a subconscious level. Biases come in many forms, including racial, gender, and confirmation biases. They develop over time due to our experiences, upbringing, and exposure to various influences. I want you to say out loud: “I am biased, and that’s okay.” “I generalize, and that’s okay.” It is only the product of your own brain schematics and environment. However, it is one thing to have biases and another to express them. Bias can lie in your subconscious; you would never even know if you’re acting in a biased way. It’s not enough to be aware of your biases. Having and being conscious of them is okay, but it’s not okay to keep it that way.
The next step is to unlearn the biases or, more say, learn more about the problematic nature of the origins of your biases. Learn fully and actively why these biases are harmful through self-education and empathy. Educate yourself about the biases you possess. Read books and research on the subject to gain the tools to assess your biases critically (or even like watching a TV show like Fresh Prince of Bel-Air – I heard about many White people who started liking Black people more after that). You can learn a ton through surrounding or immersing yourself with diverse perspectives and minds, where you can empathize and learn from them (as they can learn from you as well; we all have a lot to offer as teachers and learners). Unlearning is an active process. You have to make it a dynamic process and want it for yourself to grow as a human being, to be able to unlearn a natural cognitive function. You must acquire an active thinking process stronger than your automatic processes to override your biases. Do not let your brain win.
The final step is to relearn. Once you begin unlearning, it’s time to embrace a mindset of continuous learning and growth. Here are some tips on the process of relearning:
- Embrace discomfort. The fact that you are on this journey means you are doing something right.
- Stay humble. Biases can also resurface anytime and be open to feedback from others.
- Be an ally. Actively working with groups you’re biased against will help you and help others gain awareness.
- Share your journey. Encourage open conversations about bias with friends, family, and colleagues. Sharing your experiences and insights can inspire others to embark on their own journeys of unlearning and relearning.
Overall, unlearning and relearning our biases is an ongoing process that requires self-awareness, education, empathy, and a commitment to personal growth. By actively challenging our preconceptions and seeking to understand and respect the experiences of others, we can contribute to a more inclusive and equitable society. It’s a journey worth embarking on—one that can transform ourselves and the world around us. You can make an impact just by fighting your brain. Fighting your own brain is a war in itself, or, as others would say, “battling my demons.” ; You could spend an entire lifetime on that. Imagine trying to dismantle hundreds of years of the past and present brains actively working to uphold their biases and create systems of oppression to support them. Is being able to fight your brain enough? Will you ever fully win the fight with your brain? And can we create a world where people no longer have to actively fight the biases in their brains?