Everyone has implicit bias. The term “implicit bias” describes when we have attitudes towards people or associate stereotypes with them unconsciously. This can be on account of race, gender, sexual orientation, age – the list is longer than most people think and specific to each person. And this isn’t about being racist or sexist, it’s about the unconscious thoughts that come into our heads when we see someone walking down the street.
Implicit bias is difficult to change. We all need to try to be aware of our own implicit biases and be motivated to work on them; don’t make negative (or positive) assumptions about people just from seeing them walking towards you or standing on the side of the road. One idea is to analyze a situation before coming up with who you think that person is despite the unconscious thoughts that come into your head, let alone making a comment or taking action. Instead of going with your first feeling, focus and think about members of stereotyped groups as individuals by thinking of their specific word and actions, and how they differ from what you see as the stereotype.
One thing that results in implicit bias is when you surround yourself only with people who look, think, act and believe like you. Doing this results in you being in a vacuum in which what you think and feel are validated and any negative thoughts of other groups or types of people are reinforced. This happens a lot as most people are more comfortable in situations in which there is unlikely to be conflict.
Engaging with people who are different than you opens up your world. It doesn’t mean you have to change your belief system to align with people who are different than you. On the other hand, the opportunity should provide perspective and the chance to learn or even to agree not to agree in a respectful way. You don’t have to change your politics or religion if you speak with people with different beliefs, but you can and should treat them with respect. Doing so will open up your world to different people, ideas and the chance to looks at things from a different perspective.