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Understanding implicit bias can be an extremely difficult task for most people. It requires a degree of self-awareness and a willingness to admit that, sometimes, many of our daily interactions with other people are shaded by prejudice, even when we mean well. Nobody wants to own up to assuming that a person is less intelligent because of their hair color, or that they're less capable because of their age, or that they're more dangerous because of their skin color.

But, the reality is that we all have our own biases that need to be acknowledged, unpacked, and unlearned.

As a young(ish) black male, I've come face-to-face with race-based bias more often than I could even attempt to quantify. It's not uncommon for interactions fueled by biases to result in viral videos and attention-grabbing headlines. It's more common, however, for them to be felt in the tiny, seemingly harmless, micro-aggressions that members of minority groups encounter throughout everyday life.

No person of color is a stranger to moments like having your name intentionally mispronounced because it's slightly less common than "John." (Seriously, if you can pronounce Polish last names where "-dzki" is a common suffix, you can figure out "Jamel" without making a show of it.) Encountering bias is a part of life for many of us, and navigating it eventually becomes second nature.

Sifting my thoughts on this topic caused me to look at my own prejudices. What I found was that, in a strange way, being aware of how much of a role implicit bias and micro-aggressions play in my day-to-day interactions has led to me forming biases of my own as a bit of a defense mechanism.

Simply put, I assign biases to certain groups of people before I even give them a chance to exhibit them. When I see a police officer, I expect them to single me out and treat me unfairly. When I speak to "baby boomers," I expect my life experiences to be minimized and written off as an unmotivated millennial. When I meet a vegan, I expect them to preach on the health benefits of removing delicious fast-food double cheeseburgers from my diet.

So what can we do about it?

While it's probably impossible to rid yourself of all biases, what we can do is limit the amount of control they have over our actions. In order to accomplish this, we must acknowledge our prejudices and then work to make sure our interactions are not governed by them.

As difficult as it may be to admit it, this blog might be about you. Do you show favoritism or prejudice based on snap judgments of people you've just met? Do you harbor damaging opinions about other people based on insufficient data and assumptions you've adopted along the way? I've taken a long look in the mirror and named some of my biases.

Can you name some of yours?

Written by Justin Fantroy

Prejudice is difficult to overcome, especially if we don't see it in ourselves. What are yours?

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