The proposed 8th Principle calls on us to “dismantle racism and other oppressions in ourselves and our institutions.” Does this imply that we are racists? That’s not how I see it.
Ibram Kendi, in his book How to be an Antiracist, argues that it is not useful to label people as “racist” or “not racist.” What matters is how we act and what motivates us.
I was exposed to racist stereotypes and racist thinking as a child. When I reflect on my adult behavior, I realize that despite my best efforts, I still harbor implicit racial biases.
As a university professor, I was quick to judge the intellectual capacity of my master’s students – White, Black, Asian, Hispanic. I tried to be “race neutral,” but realize now that racial biases likely influenced those impressions. I had lower expectations for students from certain undergraduate schools, students who did not talk like White people, students whose demeanor did not conform to dominant White university culture norms.
Even now, despite trying to be unbiased, I find myself making unconscious assumptions. When a contractor crew shows up with workers of different races, I look to the White individuals for the likely boss. In retail stores my initial assumption is that Black people I encounter are employees rather than customers. When I see young Black males on the street my personal safety antennae go on alert.
I’m not carrying around guilt about this, but I try to be watchful and make sure I don’t act on those biased preconceptions. The more watchful I am, the more successful I hope to be in dismantling my implicit racial biases.