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Racial-Bias, Is It About Ignorance or Preference?

Updated: Nov 18, 2018

Many are saying unconscious bias is the most critical issue in addressing inequality and disparities in society, but what's it cause? I don't think its a lack of education I think it's intelligent self-interest.

A mega church pastor (and retired LA Charger) I like, called Miles Mcpherson, the founder of The Rock Church recently dropped a book entitled, 'The Third Option: Hope for a Racially Divided Nation'. In the book and his career as a pastor he speaks out about the pervasive divisions in today’s culture and argues that we must learn to see people, not by the colour of their skin, but as God sees them—humans created in the image of God.

What Social Psychologists Say about Bias

Talking about his book, he highlighted something profound about what sociologists called groupings. , In particular, he focuses on two social groups that we all find ourselves in: in-groups and out-groups.

An in-group is (I'll save your Googling it) a group that includes people with whom we can identify. An out-group (you've probably guessed it) is any group that excludes. Grouping can be based on things such as age, race, religious gender etc.

Let me expand. We have intimate knowledge and are intimately involved with other members of our in-group, whereas with out-groups we don't have that kind of experience. So when we comment on an out-group, it's usually out of ignorance.

Taking race as a significant example (in groups can be as trivial as preferences for specific hotels). For instance, there's black in-groups and white in-groups. If you're a person of colour other PoC are part of your in-group, and white people become the out-group and vice versa. These social groups by race can create an "us and them" situation.

Once we've established a 'them' and an 'us' we've developed a bias. In-group bias is showing preferential treatment to those in our in-group over the out-group. So we're likely to be more: comfortable, friendly, patient, gracious, forgiving, kind and at ease and less presumptuous with those in our in-group.

Moreover, out-group bias is where, due to the absence of preferential treatment, we show discrimination against those in the out-group.

Let's take Christie; she's white, 15, lives in a wealthy white leafy 'burb and attends a Lilly white high school. Her white friends (in-group) all want to go to a local mall to eat, shop and chat. Except Christie has never as much as been in this mall's parking lot because it's in an area of town with lots of Hispanics (her out-group).

She's heard from her grandparents how they've ruined it for locals (who were here before an influx of immigrants arrived) and her mum wants her to date within her race. She's also heard rumours that the Hispanic security guards stare at the white women asses, that the Hispanic staff are rude and exclusively speak Spanish amongst themselves and there are 'gangs' of male Hispanic teens playing pick and catcalling girls.

Christie is displaying a lot of out-group bias here because she's never as much as set foot in the mall, she has very little exposure to Hispanics full stop. And yet she's hating!

I know what it feels like to be in an out-group. It's been my life in most public spaces since my birth. It pains me to write this. If you're not white and you've grown up in a white community, i.e. white schools, businesses, colleges, universities, hospitals and even holidays, you can probably relate.

As an out-groupee maybe you feel judged, isolated or misjudged and so you're consequently left out. Perhaps you feel bitter about it. It could be that you have not been aware of it until now or recently, and you're curious to learn more about your unfavourable identity, understand yourself and make sense of who you are in the white world.

"Missing out on being able to relate to other black people [I] was never worried about missing out in terms of people around me."

Please don't let these intense feelings eat you from the inside out because it can. If you are struggling because you've been put aside, as Mexican ministry leader Esli Mandrano from Rock Church said, 'there's a reason for it, you're being prepared for something.'

What something? More pain? More defeat? Not necessarily, author and pastor John Gray writes about his experience and speaks to others who are feeling overlooked and undervalued: "There will come a day when those who have been overlooked and forgotten and marginalised will suddenly be thrust into a place of position and prominence for everyone to see."

Please don't let that scare you either, it's a choice and so a path you choose not so much something that happens to you as it is something that you have in you innately.

As a side, when I say left-out, I don't at all mean from white in-groups because I've still got white friends. It's, as a black friend said to me, "missing out on being able to relate to other black people [I] was never worried about missing out in terms of people around me,' she goes onto to say white British culture could be more stimulating. I'm sure you know that feeling too.

What's most insightful from all this and perhaps what Miles has written in his book (yet to read) is the best summed up by Anti-Racist Activist Jane Elliot's t-shirt in a sneak preview of the Red Table Talk w Jada Pinkett Smith:

"God created one race THE HUMAN RACE Human beings created racism."

And so in the absence of categorisations such as racial classifications, which were formalised by Carl Linnaeus an 18th Century Botanist (didn't the fact that he was a botanist classifying humans ring any alarm bells?), they'd be no preferential treatment based on race. We would treat other ethnic groups with less bias; we'd be less unjust, and ultimately we'd be more human in our affairs with other humans.

Here's a prayer for those who feel misjudged, prejudged and isolated or those who have been guilty of that:

Forgive me, God.

Forgive others God for the pain they have caused me.

Forgive me for the pain I have caused others.

Lord, ultimately I want to be your child.

I want to identify as your child.

I invite you into my heart.

I give you my life.

I give you me.

Forgive me and make me new.

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