Our society is currently experiencing civil unrest resulting from a perception of systemic discrimination and violence – and many people are afraid to discuss issues surrounding bias or prejudice for fear of themselves being perceived as discriminatory.
Human beings are hardwired to recognize patterns and to put things into easily recognizable groups. This ability allows us to form complex ideas, categorize them, and retrieve them quickly when needed. However, there are times when this capability can lead to the unintentional development of beliefs that are actually harmful to ourselves and those around us – leading us towards forming biased opinions that are rooted in unsubstantiated feelings rather than facts.
Most of the time we’re just not aware of when we do this, but when we do the outcome may lead to developing unrealistic beliefs about a person or a group of people that we associate with that individual. Oftentimes these beliefs will also have negative emotions attached to them like anger or distrust, resulting in the avoidance or marginalization of people who belong to these groups.
There are some things that we can do to foster better understanding among people of diverse backgrounds and opinions according to psychologist Dr. Gwendolyn Keita:
- Understand where we come from – we all have our own points of view that have been shaped by our individual experiences. All of us have these biases which shape our opinions of others.
- Honestly acknowledge your feelings towards different opinions and groups – it’s alright if certain things make you uncomfortable. That’s natural after all. Learn to recognize what these are so that negative emotions won’t lead to biased and discriminatory conclusions.
- Share our challenges and fears – this can be difficult, especially if we are around people that we perceive as being judgemental. Vocalizing our personal biases can help us move past them.
- Exposure to new ideas and groups of people – research has shown that positive media exposure to examples of people or groups that they are unfamiliar with will lead to changing attitudes and more realistic perceptions. What’s even more effective is meeting and communicating directly.
Different groups of people can each bring something of value in making society better – we can use these various points of view to better understand one another and achieve a more harmonious social balance.
Healing Arts Institute Stands in solidarity with
BLACK LIVES MATTER