I am not racist, but my brain may be!

NRI Tips: The unconscious bias and the depth of racial issues abroad

There is no dispute that America is one of the richest countries where entrepreneurial spirit strives for excellence; freedom of speech is respected and encouraged. Every work place preaches and teaches diversity. However, in spite of all the progress, the American society as a whole continue to struggle with racial discrimination and racial biases.

Many have undertaken the noble task of investigating and researching racism and race relations in America. I outlined a few very basic aspects of it in a previous article ‘ABC of race relation in America’. Some of the interesting studies of modern days blame this human behavior of discrimination on ‘unconscious bias’. The studies point to the fact that the racial bias is linked to our subconscious behavior where we discriminate, unknowingly to a large extent, even when we don’t mean it.

So it is not your fault entirely, it is the brain of yours that is messing with you!

It makes sense, if you think about it; these biases and discrimination have been a part of American culture for so long that their existence has become a part of common thinking- a part of general thought process of our brain. The racial discrimination, that has run so deep in the American society for so long, now runs deep in our brain’s logic.

The true behavior of a human being is beyond his/her own control, well, to a an extent. We may consider ourselves to be a very open-minded, beyond the shallow boundaries of skin-colors and social biases, but we are more than what we think we are. Somewhere in the depths of our brain, somewhere in the subliminal part of our thought process, there lies a factor beyond our control. It could be due to the way we were raised, or due to some incident(s) in the past, or due to the stories that our parents or grand-parents told us growing up.

We are often biased unconsciously, even when we are not trying :)! This bias could be against a social group, a class, an age group or any other ‘category’ that our brain may have coined. Unknowingly, these biases could be very pronounced to another observer or very subtle to notice. Our outward behavior could be very different based on our trainings and teachings.

To be open-minded is one thing, but to be unbiased could be impossible. Even if we try to be prefect, the unconscious bias is still going to affect our actions. To be perfect, one has to be raised by perfect parents in a perfect society with perfect settings with no exposure to the history of racism or other related ugliness. Also, what I think perfect may be different from what you believe it to be. Should my perfect world include only my own kind and my own skin color?

The social discrimination has been a part of America for centuries; it is a part of the culture. Something so deeply rooted for so long is not going to disappear overnight.

So, the bad news is this, the unconscious bias is here to stay for a long time. The human brain is one of the most complicated computers ever encountered, the most amazing piece of memory-box. The residual traces of untrained memories from ugly past are going to have a noticeable impact on our thinking for a long time. After all, we are shaped by our surroundings; our social settings and hereditary genes play a much much bigger role in our behavior than we realize.

And then there is a good news! It is encouraging to note that during the Obama presidential elections in 1908, the race or ethnicity of the candidates was lesser of an issue for the younger generation. This was confirmed over and over by different opinion polls. It seems that we are on the right track, the new generation is more tolerant and less biased. There will come a day, it may not be in our life time, when racial issue will be virtually eliminated; this scar of racial discrimination is bound to be a part of the fading memories of yesteryears eventually. A day may come when we will not need any diversity training in our schools and work places. One can dream! 🙂

For now, we can all do our part by being more conscious of our own actions and unconscious biases, by being more aware of the cleverness and treacheries of our brain!

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5 Replies to “I am not racist, but my brain may be!”

  1. Great Blog, I have never though of my self as been racist. But some times in my brain or my way of think maybe so.

  2. READ MY MANY BLOGS WHAT I SAY ABOUT HUMAN MIND
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  3. THE CAUSE OF ALL problems is the human head gray matter the mind processor?
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  4. WEAVE A BEAUTIFUL TAPESTRY IN YOUR LIFE JOURNEY FOR Then death could not touch YOUR MIGHTY GLOWING SOUL FOR THEN YOUR SOUL WILL IMMORTALIZE IN MAKER SURELY LIKE MANY SANTS
    AS BEAUTIFUL AS A RAINBOW THAT HAVE SEVEN VISIBLE COLORS AND THE RAINBOW IS SEEN IN ALL NATIONS!

  5. Thanks for posting this.

    A few thoughts I had is…
    Yes we are programmed by our upbringing and society, but to become present in each moment, as hard as that is- if that can be done we can start to realize when we behave some ways and then also the thoughts behind those behaviors. We can become so aware of this so we can change ourselves if we desire to do so. Doing so is not easy as an individual firstly, but then changing and going back to your family and social group and having them observe your difference. How will they respond? Will they encourage or discourage that change?

    So, I believe we can be in control of it- it does not need to control us.

    Secondly, every society has a racial or some kind of bias or other. When we say the words bias and stereotype- we often association them with negativity. Someone once pointed out since I like India and Indians so much that I am biased toward Indians or I discriminate positively toward Indians so much so I may not pay attention to others around me. This was a few years back. Now I realized I do that since someone pointed it out and I try to remember regardless of race, ethnicity, culture, etc each group has people in it I will get along with and others I won’t gel with. That’s ok but I should not stick to one group only because that limits my exposure to different points of view and learning new things.

    Thanks for making me think of this.

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