Faith Witness to End Racism

Welcome to the first installment of a year-long effort to understand racism better and consider ways we might combat it. We are the Westminster Peace and Justice Committee and this newsletter is a follow-up to the Faith Witness event that we sponsored October 4, 2020. Thank you for joining us!

We hope this periodic letter will challenge us to learn and act. When we talk about racism, we will be focused on systemic racism. It can play out in subtle ways, so subtle it can go virtually unnoticed if one is not negatively affected by it. These subtle mechanisms occur frequently, and an example of the collective effect is a wealth gap; in 2016 the net worth of the typical White family was nearly 10 times that of the typical Black family. (1) That startling metric is anything but subtle, and is the result of a "system" which has grown and evolved over the course of 400 years when the first African slaves were brought to the United States.

We intend to explore various aspects of this "system". We hope to offer some insight into the mechanics of it and consider (modest) ways we might help dismantle it. A lot of this is internal work, and the mechanisms are at work in many arenas besides racism.
Unconscious or Implicit Bias

Let us start with a parable. There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says "Morning, boys. How’s the water?" And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes “What the heck is water?” (2)
Given the heading, we hope you see the connection. Unconscious bias (or implicit bias) is often defined as prejudice or unsupported judgments in favor of or against one thing, person, or group as compared to another, in a way that is usually considered unfair. Many researchers suggest that unconscious bias occurs automatically as the brain makes quick judgments based on past experiences and background. As a result of unconscious biases, certain people benefit, and other people are penalized. In contrast, deliberate prejudices are defined as conscious bias (or explicit bias). Although we all have biases, many unconscious biases tend to be exhibited toward minority groups based on factors such as class, gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, nationality, religious beliefs, age, disability and more. (3)

These biases are hard to discern of course, and hard to change, but may also be critical for the survival of our species. Once they are recognized we can take steps to ensure our behavior is of our choosing.

Learn about Unconscious and Implicit Bias and how difficult it is to see. Click the image to watch the video.
This short video introduces the concept.
This video covers the concept and implications of implicit bias. It mentions the IAT which is a suggested activity below.
Awareness and Transformation: What is Implicit Bias? Intro from the Pittsburgh Presbytery; some thoughts on how to combat implicit bias. (Audio is not great, but it is "real".)
The Doll Test
This shows how early in life "racial bias" is established. It also shows that such bias is consistent, independent of the race of the child.

Implicit bias influences our thinking imperceptibly. These suggestions may help you understand some of your own unconscious biases. We all have them, difficult as that is to think about. Awareness is a first step in evaluating how these biases may influence our behavior without us even being aware of them.

IAT - Implicit Association Test, Project Implicit
Log in or register to find out your implicit associations about race, gender, sexual orientation, and other topics. Look for the "Race IAT". There are others you might find interesting as well. Read more.

Clocktimizer is an informal, brief gender bias self-test which consists of just seven questions. Read more.

Are you biased? I am | Kristen Pressner | TEDxBasel
What do you do when you realize you have a bias, even against yourself? Kristen Pressner is the Global Head of Human Resources at a multinational firm, and a tireless advocate for, and promoter of, women in the workplace. Kristen presents an approach you can try out to test your biases. This can be done by making notes as you go about your day – or watch the evening news.
Peace and Justice at Westminster

Additional resources are available on Westminster's Peace and Justice webpage by clicking here.

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Westminster Presbyterian Church
2040 Washington Road
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