“You can’t solve a problem unless you talk about.” Beverly Daniel Tatum
Unconscious biases develop our first year of life. These biases affect how we act in ways we may not always understand and recognize. Until we start acknowledging these biases and discussing them without blame, shame OR guilt, they will persist and shape our behavior and culture.
A surprising study found that black boys as young as 10 are seen as less innocent than white boys. Race identification, and the pride or shame associated with it, begins as young as 4-5 years of age. Representation affects our biases and also our own self-concepts in positive and negative ways. For example,
A study of nearly 400 children found that the more TV white boys watch, the higher their self esteem. The opposite was true for white and black girls and black boys.
In fact, just watching a racist scene on video increases blood pressure, long after the scene is over. Fortunately, storytellers can do something about this:
Show characters that identify discrimination and talk about it openly.
Portray positive role models from a variety of backgrounds.
Showing a narrative that is the opposite of what is expected (for example, black heroes and white villains) has been shown to decrease unconscious bias by 40%.
It’s time to flip the script.