Yellow Light!

Peulle, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Is it safer to speed up or slow down at a yellow light? Slow down! Slowing down is safer for yourself and others when driving on the road. Let’s take this yellow light idea and apply it to race talk. Slowing down when talking to others is one of the most important steps to combat implicit bias. What is implicit bias? Implicit bias is unconscious opinions and beliefs that are not consciously thought and can influence actions. Implicit bias affects how we interact with the world around us subconsciously. This could be walking to the other side of the street when you see a black man on the same side of the street as you. You might do this without even thinking about anything, this is because of implicit bias! There are biases we hold without thinking about because of the social world surrounding us. Our predominantly white society builds biases into our consciousness at a young age. These biases are in the back of our minds and can cause microaggressions.

Microaggressions are harmful actions against people of color on an interpersonal level, as defined by D.W. Sue in his paper titled, Disarming Racial Microaggressions: Microintervention Strategies for Targets, White Allies, and Bystanders. Microaggressions add up! Microaggressions cause a constant state of stress for people of color as many interactions are little attacks associated with one of their social identities. This wears down psychological and physical health over time by living in a constant state of stress. How can we combat implicit bias and resulting microaggressions? By simply slowing down and being aware. Thinking before speaking might be the easiest way to make a difference. When entering a conversation with different races present, as a white person, recognize the differences and slow down. Think about the different contributions the different social identities bring to the table and give them power. Slow down your thought process and give up the power society places on you. Let others contribute before yourself and take a second to think about your contribution to see if your biases are affecting it. When in everyday life, before crossing the street take a second to think, “is this my implicit bias?” and change your actions. Slowing down may be the easiest and simplest way to prevent some microaggressions from happening and combat your own implicit bias. I encourage you in the future to slow down and think of a yellow light. If you can slow down when driving, slow down to combat your implicit, and unconscious, bias and change your actions.

In slowing down you might find you don’t have the knowledge about race talk or racism you thought you had. I have one tip for this! Sue discusses this as a tactic to combat microaggressions: making the invisible, visible. When you slow down and see a microaggression or see your implicit bias affecting your behavior call it out and make a point to correct it. Making the invisible visible is about bringing light to the biases affecting your actions. Instead of overlooking a harmful sentence or action, slow down and call yourself out: a simple humble apology, or saying “That was uncalled for” will call out your bias/ microaggression and can help you change the behavior for the future. With this, just remember, that it is not the receiver of the behavior’s responsibility to explain what you did wrong, you need to research it yourself. Are you able to slow down and think critically about the implicit biases you have to change your behavior and become more proactive against microaggressions?

Remember Yellow Light, Slow Down!

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