The global anti-racism uprisings have ignited a much-needed reckoning among many. When you hear the word “bias” is there a feeling that arises in the mind and body? For most, the feeling is negative, as if we are uncomfortable, confused, and tight. The mind is playing defense. I am not biased. I’m not a racist. Yet countless studies show that all of us, regardless of our background, carry biases within us. How could we not? Most of us grew up in a society that conditions our minds to value a certain kind of human being as more beautiful, desirable, civilized and worthy of respect. That human almost always looks white, light skinned, or European. We must keep in mind that 40% of Americans and 85% of humanity are people of color. Take a moment to reflect on all of the books you have read, the musicians you’ve obsessed over, and the movies you have watched. What percentage of them reflect the diversity of hues and experiences that make up the American and global human story? Unconscious bias differs from conscious bias because we are aware of the latter. For example, I do not like insects. I’m very conscious of that belief. Unconscious bias affects everything. How doctors believe or disbelieve their patients’ pain. How police officers assess risk. How judges sentence defendants. How hiring managers assess competence. Just as bias is a learned habit, it can be unlearned and we can learn new habits. Mindfulness helps here. It helps me notice whatever arises without judgment. It helps me make those shifts for myself and groups that my mind has seen as the “other”—differently abled, formerly incarcerated, homeless people.

This is a daily moment-to-moment practice of presence that is held in a container of compassion and kindness. I ask myself “what am I believing right now?” These are the shifts that will allow us to move beyond ideas of one another to the presence of one another, the real people. Here are some tips for while you are practicing mindfulness and noticing bias and limiting perceptions.

  • May I surround my limitations and challenges with care and love.
  • May I know my own goodness.
  • May I know that others want love and acceptance, just like me.
  • May I cultivate strength and courage to work for justice. (Micki Fine)

As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said “Our goal is to build a beloved community. This will require a qualitative shift in our hearts, and a qualitative shift in our lives.”

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