HOW TO RISE ABOVE RACISM: A PRIMER FOR UNDERSTANDING THE BROADER RAMIFICATION OF IMPLICIT BIAS.
“History teaches, but has no pupils.” – Antonio Gramsci
It’s unlikely that one would know how to overcome and rise above racism without understanding what racism is, and what unconscious bias is.
I truly hope you find the observations shared in here helpful in your own pursuit of understanding racism. You can add the words and ideas shared in here that resonate with your experience into your tool kit to help other people in your area of influence grasp the core of this subject.
I wrote this book as a resource for members of our society who are struggling with racism, including unconscious bias, and as a tool for those interested in helping those among us who are exhibiting signs and symptoms suggesting racism and unconscious bias.
We are all at a moment in time that we’ve never experienced before. There is an old adage which says, that there’s nothing as powerful as an idea whose time has come. I believe that time is now. Our society is going through a time of reflection in relation to racial injustices that are embedded in the structures of our society in a way it has not done before.
Let me start by briefly sharing some of the outcomes of these racial injustices.
Considerable research suggests that stress associated with the impact of racism can have long lasting physical and mental effect, among other impairments. When it comes to unconscious bias, there is increasingly overwhelming scientific evidence of the effect of implicit bias on all aspects of life and human interactions. A 2015 study, for example, found
that compared with other racial groups, black children with severe pain from appendicitis are less likely to receive pain medication. This suggests that racial bias is causing medical professionals to use different thresholds of pain medication for different racial groups, either inadvertently or purposefully, before administering care. Racism is already linked
to poorer birth outcomes, such as infant mortality, for black families. Studies suggest that mothers who report experiences of racism are more likely to have babies with low birth weight, which can cause further health problems for the infants later in life. And young black people, just as the older ones, also experience the ongoing stress of living with and
witnessing racism and discrimination. Consequently, as they get older, they face similar risks of developing chronic health conditions, just as their parents.
It’s very clear, from infant mortality to life expectancy, that race and
ethnicity affect a person’s experiences.
COVID-19 and Racial Disparities
Now listen to this:
While most of the world is affected by COVID-19, persons of color are disproportionately burdened. According to new data released from my home state of Iowa, Hispanic and Latino Iowans account for 16.4% of the positive tests for COVID-19 even though they are only 6.2% of the Iowa population. Likewise, Black Iowans make up 4% of the state’s population, but 8.7% of the total confirmed cases.
Once infected, both groups face harmful stereotypes (preconceived notions of the
“other”) in the health care system. Studies have shown that persons of color as a group
receive less pain medication and are listened to less intently by medical personnel than
All these harmful societal conditions combine to make COVID-19 an even deadlier threat
to people of color than whites in this country.
TIP: True racial justice is the systematic fair treatment of all races that results in equitable
opportunities and outcomes for all.
While at times our own preconceived notions of the “other” may create problems, there are
things that can be done to reduce this risk. Education and awareness are the first steps in that process.
As we spend time together through this book, I hope to provide you with a conceptual
framework, and a personal challenge with the aim of empowering you with both awareness and education to help you build capacity in the area of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
I also hope that the observations I share will equip everyone in the arena of businesses and organizations with skills to not only identify inequities, but to understand practical ways in which implementations can be made.
Our Values are Like Fingerprints
“It doesn’t matter how strong your opinions are. If you don’t use your power
for positive change, you are, indeed, part of the problem.” – Coretta Scott King
In your own life, how are you supporting equality and inclusion? How
can you confront injustice?
It is important to point out that I don’t expect consensus on the issues I raise in this book, or on any of the other major issues we are all confronting right now as a nation. I don’t expect consensus on every perception, position, or solution. However, in spite of our different perspectives, I hope we can all agree that it’s time to ask very hard questions, look deep inside ourselves and attempt to figure out not only how we got where we are, but also why we allowed ourselves to get this far.
TIP: I can’t shake off my values just because others don’t agree with me or
don’t think I deserve a voice in the matter. I hope you won’t either.
Elvis Presley once said, “Values are like fingerprints. Nobodies are the
same but you leave them all over everything you do.”
We also learn a very important truth about values from Roy Disney, who
said, “When your values are clear to you, making decisions becomes
Sharing Ideas in a Way You Have Never Heard Before
My career path has given me unique experiences that make it possible for
me to share and present ideas on this subject with a style that is second to
none. It’s truly something that you will never forget. And the experience
that follows could mark the day that turns your life around.
This book is about racism, but we will also touch on implicit bias (unconscious bias) because the two are connected. Unconscious bias can make people discriminate others and act in racist ways. But there is hope, because studies show that people can overcome unconscious bias if they are intentional about it, and by so doing decrease or eliminate manifestations of discrimination and racism. Upbringing, culture and media, have
a lot to do with the formation of these implicit biases.
Research shows that we are largely unaware of these biases, but it also shows that if we become aware of them and work to eliminate them, we can overcome them and rise above them. Studies show that it’s possible to get mastery over your biases. The hardest part is identifying them, but you can do this through self-evaluation. If you identify them, you’ll be on your way to a more liberated way of life. This doesn’t mean the biases are eliminated overnight, but when you identify them, you begin the process of turning what seemed impossible into something that is achievable. As the saying goes, Rome was not built in a day, so you have to be patient with yourself as you work to gain mastery over the biases.
TIP: Most of us are misinformed about our potential and achievement. That’s why we only achieve a small fraction of what we’re capable of in any area of our life. We’ve been told we can’t do it ever since we were little kids. And, at some point, we start to believe it. But once you understand that anything is possible, and that you’re capable of learning and mastering
any skill or new habit if you put in time and effort and deliberate practice
no matter what it is, you will be rewarded for your effort.
Now, I realize that there are many groups of people that have experienced discrimination and racism, and some are experiencing similar treatment right now. But for the purpose of this book, allow me to address or use BIPOC (Black Indigenous People of Color) as an example of being on the receiving end of these vile experiences.
Let’s dive in together and start by uncovering racism.