You're (Still) a Little Bit Racist

Jan 15, 2019

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Is everyone a little bit racist?

We are not born with prejudice. We learn it. It builds up throughout our lives, through our experiences and societal reinforcement.  Consciously or not, we are influenced by everything we see in the media, on the street, in schools, and in the workplace. And of course, our view of the world is greatly shaped by the things our friends, family, parents and grandparents say, and do.

As individuals, we all subconsciously internalize these experiences, and it can result in unfortunate assumptions about members of certain social groups that we may view as “other.”  This is implicit bias, and it shapes our behavior - often subtly - which consequently, perpetuates inequality in our society.

In today’s episode, we explore racial bias, how we recognize our own patterns and how to unwind them. We speak with Dr. Evelyn Carter, an expert in implicit bias, and with Pastor Ron Buford, the founder of Racists Anonymous, a program based on Alcoholics Anonymous, that helps me acknowledge and unwind their inherent prejudice.

 You can access the RA Quick Start Guide here



Pastor Ron: My name's Ron Buford, I'm pastor of the congregational church in Sunnyvale.

One of the jobs I've had in the past was a job of working on the identity of the United Church of Christ. And, because I came into the United Church of Christ, through something people know as the congregational church. And there were four bodies that got together, the Evangelical, Reform, Congregational, and Christian. And they got together in 1957, I think, to form what we call The United Church of Christ, today.

What's interesting about it, is that in 1798 in that tradition, we were the first to ordain an African-American person to ministry in a non-black church. We were the first to ordain a woman in 1853. And, we were the first to ordain an openly gay person in 1972.

Jeff: Well so, and since that time, we seemingly have made a lot of progress.

In the Obama era, racism was what I might call, somewhat asymptomatic in our culture. Now it's obviously there, and people are experiencing it on a daily basis. But in 2016, we saw it become more symptomatic, and more emboldened in some ways. Do think that's a proper diagnosis, and did that feeling inspire you to do the work that you're doing now?

Pastor Ron: Well, I think that is a very accurate assessment.

The breakthrough moment for me with Racists Anonymous came as a series of things. One, I spent some time in London, and in the UK, in fact. And I was struck while I was there that I encountered less racism directed towards me. In this country, little things, I mean nobody's come after me in a white suit. But you know, I have to watch out for the police. Things like if you go to a restaurant and you're doing a deal, and things like how things get handled, and how you're respected determine how well the deal will go. I had to arrange to get the right waiter and the right setup, because if I didn't, the wrong thing would have maybe a 50% chance of happening. You'll be disrespected in some way.

Those kinds of things happen. You go to a maitre d' and there are two people, you and I go, they're going to assume you're the person that's in charge. And that gets to be annoying. It happens with women as well. And so, when I went to London, though, that didn't happen. And I thought, "Wow, this is kind of neat, like being on a race vacation." You know? Somebody asked me once, they said, because being gay and black, they said, "Well why would you want to be gay, too, on top of that?" And I said, "Well, I didn't pick any of those things." You know? If I had a choice, I would've gotten into the six foot two, blonde hair, blue eyed line, if I knew I was coming to America, you know?

But anyway, while I was in London, and those things didn't happen, I though, "It's kind of nice." But I noticed, they weren't free of racism.

Jeff: Right. Different groups.

Pastor Ron: Different group, yeah. They have some issues with Eastern Europeans, and they have some issues with people from the Caribbean, and India, and so forth. But you know, they had some anti-American sentiment, but that was a whole different thing than racism.

Jeff: So are you implying that potentially everybody is a little bit racist?

Pastor Ron: Yes, yes. As Avenue Q says, I think it's true. And really, as a result of coming home from that experience, and the fact that at the church I serve now, there's an AA meeting in the room next to my office every day, every week day. And when I put those two things together, I thought, "I wonder, what would happen if," Since people are in such A, denial about racism, even among my friends and colleagues that I get to support this idea, the hardest thing is that first step, is to admit that they're a racist. "Oh I'm not a racist. Let's call it something else." I say, "No. Let's call it racism."

Jeff: So I wondered how that came about. So you were essentially eavesdropping on an AA meeting. Because you know, I'm curious how you formed the curriculum. Because it mirrors a lot of the AA 12-step system. And I even noticed that you sometimes say the serenity prayer up front.

Pastor Ron: Well yeah, we stole it all from them. It's just, you know, first of all, the serenity prayer, Reinhold Niebuhr is the author of the serenity. UCC Minister, Theologian.

Jeff: Is that right?

Pastor Ron: So it's part of our history, you know, Church of Christ history. But secondly, I have great respect for the 12-step program. I think it's a helpful program. Works for some people, doesn't work for everybody. But I thought it provides a methodology for dealing with it. And the denial thing is, I think, the important thing. We are in denial about being racist in America. Anything else, we'll say. And so, and there's some ... We've redefined racism. We say racism is attention to any exterior difference that causes you to treat another person negatively. So that includes race, social status, eye color, size, gender, sexuality, and so forth.

Because those things do cause us to treat people differently. And, even within our own categories, say, as African-American people, we can then turn around and be homophobes. What's that about?

Jeff: Right.

Pastor Ron: How can we be ... well, civil rights doesn't really apply to those people. Well of course it does. So we each have our little fiefdoms, our little areas.

Jeff: Our like groups.

Pastor Ron: I mean, for example, some of the most discrimination I experience, I experience within the gay community. Well what's that about? Because we can deal with our own issues, but we still want to hold on to our own little private bias, and bigotry.

Some people believe that black, brown, minority people, can't be racist, because the theory is that it's not just racism, but there is power, as well, that's engaged. So racism plus power is what's really, what's problematic in society. And my only issue with that definition is that we all have some level of power, and where do you break it off? How much power do I need to have before I can be a racist?

Jeff: Right. So I think, as you suggest, the hardest part of this process is raising your hand and acknowledging your own racism.

Pastor Ron: Yeah.

Jeff: I'm wondering if you can help take us through the process. Because there's something in the workbook. The first question you ask is, the first time I encountered, or saw racism, fill in the blank. But the second is the first time I saw my parents do something racist.

Pastor Ron: That's right.

Jeff: And what's so important about that question?

Pastor Ron: What's important about ... The first question's really a warm-up question.

Jeff: Right. It's a softball.

Pastor Ron: The real question is the parental question. And so, by the time you get to that second, and it takes people a lot to open up and say that. And I usually model it, and I tell the first time I saw something racist happen. And the first time I saw my parents do something racist. And then we ask other people to do that. What happens in that time is community is built. Trust is established, as a result of sharing something that is that personal. And all the people who came saying, "I know I'm not a racist." Almost in that instant realize, "I need to rethink that."

Jeff: There is nothing more community-building, or courageous, than being vulnerable, right?

Pastor Ron: Absolutely.

Jeff: So essentially, that's the design of that question.

Pastor Ron: Absolutely.

Jeff: I'm going to bear witness to my own vulnerability in front of all these people.

Pastor Ron: Well yeah, I mean, at the heart of most of our religion is some form of confession. And you can't confess if you can't be vulnerable. And so, it's important. It's an important step. And what happens is, people don't instantly start saying they're racist. It takes people weeks.

Jeff: Yeah. yeah, I mean, obviously we're dealing with a current event in society, right now, that is potentially more polarized than it's ever been. And people are suffering, families are being separated at the border, police brutality. All of the things that now have become endemic to our society. And it's hard to underplay, in any way, the suffering that people are going through. At the same time, I would ask you, do you feel like what's happening now is almost a necessary thing that could end up being a good thing? In the sense that it's almost like the body telling us that we're sick.

So it is encouraging us to take some person responsibility, and get involved, and act for change, and find that life of purpose, and have social impact. And at the same time, we see record levels of people running for office, taking to the streets. Do you feel like maybe there's some positive end?

So yeah, I think, in my theology as a minister, I believe that creation was never finished, that God put us here on the planet of the finishing agents of creation to bring about the things that are not quite right. We're to fine-tune and fix and those things. People say, "Well, if there's a God, why is there sickness and death?" Because our work isn't done, that's why. But when it's done, there won't be these things. We got stuff to do, and racism is one of those things. We can't just sit back and say, "Oh, the world's awful, there's racism." Of course there's racism, sexism, homophobia, all these things. But we can get beyond them with some tools.

With some tools. And I think what you're saying, which is so powerful and gives me hope, is that it's the idea that this is not something that's happening to us. We can be active participants in creating the society that we envision as ideal.

Pastor Ron: Absolutely.

I think the big thing about Racists Anonymous, at least for me, even though I started with the idea that we're all racist, I didn't really believe it. Do you know what I mean? I believed it, but I didn't believe it. It was like, "How bad could I be?" But after I started doing the program ... And this is like Buddhism in this way. Buddhism is about mindfulness in so many ways. And what this program does is increase our mindfulness about the ways that we are racist that day in, day out, we learn to just shut off paying attention to. But when you begin attending a Racists Anonymous group, you may think you're not a racist, but after coming to a couple sessions and sharing with people and carrying yourself around and interacting in the week, you say, "Well, there's some evidence."

Jeff: This is not easy work to do, so to support this process, we sat down with our friend Evelyn Carter.

Evelyn Carter is a Research Scientist at UCLA within the BruinX division of the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. She works to develop, implement, and test the efficacy of programming to improve diversity and campus climate.


So my name is Evelyn Carter and I'm a social psychologist. So that's kind of the technical thing that I do but I answer that question in lots of different ways. So I'm a researcher, I study how people decide what counts as racial bias and how they have conversations about it. So I think that's probably the broadest, most accurate way to describe what I do.

Jeff: Okay. Well then, what does that actually mean, racial bias? What is implicit bias?

Evelyn: So racial bias means lots of different things to different people depending on your group membership, depending on where you grew up, depending on what you've paid attention to in the world around you. So racial bias in general is just the notion that people from different groups, racial and ethnic groups are treated differently as a function of who they are. And so that can manifest in all kinds of ways, very explicitly, right, where you say, "I don't like you because you are a member of X group". Or you say, "I really like you because you're a member of X group". So that's really explicit, but it can also manifest in more implicit ways where we've essentially been inundated with all these kinds of messages, so our brains make these associations as a function of the stories we've heard, as function of the things that we've seen in the news, the TV, media, things like that.

An ingroup is basically the people who are like you, right? You can think of your ingroup in terms of people who look like you, who sound like you, would come from the same hometown as you do, who you share any kind of important feature of your identity with. Someone you could look at and be like, you're like me, right? The good news is, right, we have all kinds of feelings, positive ones toward members of our ingroup and that makes sense, right? There's evolutionary reasons why that's necessary, and also, you know, to kind of social affiliation reasons why we want to like people who are like us.

What also happens though is that if we have an ingroup we also have an out group, right? Those are people who are not like us, the people who don't share the same background, who don't look like us, who don't talk like us, what have you. What research has shown actually is that most of discrimination happens because of ingroup favoritism, right? Because we're giving more good stuff, we're giving more positivity, we're being nicer to people who are in our ingroup and less because of out group derogation, right? The kind of outright being mean toward people who are not like us.

I think it's important to think about who you are classifying as your ingroup and your out group because that is also going to be a sign to you of like who am I kind of more naturally giving the goodies and the free passes and the benefits of the doubt to, and who might be the individuals who are losing out on those same positive benefits because I don't classify them in the same way as like me?

So implicit bias is essentially what happens when those automatic associations kind of light up when we see somebody that is from a group, that we have these deeply ingrained, negative or positive attitudes toward.

Jeff: So what if you don't have an in-group? And I'll use myself as sort of, like, a personal example. I grew up, I moved 11 times before I was seven, all over the world. I have a Russian Jewish last name, Irish mutt-ish middle name, Jeff, which is not even a name from anywhere. It's like an American mutt name.

You know, my parents were Methodists, they were Jewish. Like, we lived in Brazil where I had to speak Portuguese. And basically my whole upbringing was a process of, like, assimilation. I was always trying to fit in somewhere. And, you know, as kids are so tribal, they're always looking for, like, an in-group. But in a way, you know, like, I never really felt like I belonged any particular place, which gives me sort of a strange feeling of not having a particular in-group. Like, I don't know who my in-group is, exactly.

Now, of course, like, I'm a white male in America, you know, so I have I suppose some inherent advantages, whether I like it or not. But, you know, are we headed towards a society that is maybe a little bit more global in that sense, where the in-group isn't as specifically defined?

Evelyn: Yeah, well, I think that your point brings up something really important, which is that our in-groups don't necessarily have to be stable, right? So something that you were bringing up is that you were kind of, you know, shifting your identity as a function of all the various places that you've lived. And so we also know is that the in-group or the identity that is most salient to us can change as a function of the context, right? So I think an example that I can use is that I identify as Christian and I live in a building with mostly orthodox Jewish people around me.

And I'm not usually aware of my Christian identity, right? But I definitely was when I moved into my building and noticed that everybody on my floor except for me had a mezuza on their door, right? And so that's an example of a time where, whereas a person who is Christian might not necessarily automatically come to mind as my in-group member, suddenly if I can find somebody else who, you know, is available to go grocery shopping with me on a Saturday, that means something very different, right?

So I think the answer to your question is that our in-groups shift as a function of who we're around and where we are and our personal identities. And so I think that the kind of goal that I would see is to allow everybody to have what's called a dual identity, a really, you know, kind of multi-layered identity, right? Which says, I recognize that we all identify as kind of this broad umbrella, depending on how broad you want to get, right? Like, you could start and be like, "We're all humans," right?

And so I think that recognizing  the different spaces in which we feel most comfortable as a function of, you know, kind of who's around and who's like us, is how we can start to notice our in-groups. Also acknowledging, though, that that definitely shifts as a function of, you know, lots of different things.

Jeff: Right. So everybody kind of has that right? Because everybody has formative experiences. So does everyone have some form of implicit bias?

Evelyn: Absolutely. So I mean, I think, I remember when I was watching the vice presidential, or maybe it was the presidential debate, it was one of the debates. It was because it was Hilary Clinton and she said, "Everyone has implicit bias", and the whole half of the world was in uproar. Like, "Oh my gosh, she just called everybody racist", but that's not the point. The point of implicit bias is understanding that as you were saying, all of us are socialized in a particular way and so those automatic associations are not ones that we are immune to and we have to be very aware where they're coming from. And if not, then we're just going to be walking around with these associations in our head that absolutely do influence our behavior toward people.

Jeff: So give me a spectrum on how implicit bias expresses itself.

Evelyn: So I like to think of it as your implicit bias are the associations that you have deep in your brain, and then you have these filters, that are social norms or personal beliefs, all of that kind of stuff.

Now, what can happen with test of your implicit biases, is that we're trying to assess your behavior, your motivation, your reaction before your attitude can get put through that filter. And so you have to measure people's behavior in terms of stuff that happened before the filter. So that usually means that implicit bias impacts the non-verbal behaviors. So things like the number of eye blinks, right? If you're really uncomfortable you'll probably blink your eyes a lot.

Jeff: You're doing it right now.

Evelyn: For demonstrative purposes of course, only. Yes, you might be less likely to make ad hoc comments, like, "Yeah", "Uh huh", during conversation. Your body posture is going to be more closed off, you're going to be avoiding that person's eye gaze, right? These are all the kinds of things that our bodies do without our conscious control. So because implicit bias is something that is happening before that conscious control kicks in, then the behaviors that are not consciously controllable are the ones where we see that evidence of those biases.

Jeff: I read somewhere that 97% of what we do is subconscious, right?

Evelyn: There's something like that. My mom actually, she used to say, I forget exactly what it was, but, "Most of your communication is your body language or your tone of voice". So she'd always be like, "Tone of voice Evelyn, body language."

Jeff: We go through life all the time and we're not really thinking about what we're doing right? This is all just happening, we're wired ourselves up, we've trained ourselves. And generally that stuff is relatively banal, right? Not always.

Evelyn: Right. So I think that your point is really a wonderful one. That there are so many things that we do without even thinking about it. But that's where the problem comes in when it refers to bias because a lot of times what's happening is that we're not careful and aware of the different ways in which we treat people. So then it matters.

So let's say that you are interviewing two candidates and you're a white guy, you're interviewing a white guy who happened to go to the same university that you did, right? And you also have to interview a black guy, he did not go to the same university that you did. So not the same race, not the same university, stacked not in his favor.

Now what we know in terms of our implicit biases, you might find it more natural to have a conversation with someone who looks like you. You guys can talk about your shared experience at this university, you might build a better rapport with him, your conversation with him might last a little bit longer than the length of the conversation with the black candidate who did not go to your school. However, what research shows is that those tiny differences in terms of the length of the conversation, the rapport that you're building, probably the amount of smiling that you're doing, is going to impact how that candidate reacts to you. So it's a very dynamic process because they're reading your body language and the black guys saying, "Oh, he's not being as smiley to me, I'm wondering if I'm not doing something enough. Does he not like me? Is he evaluating me oddly?" And all of that stuff is going to keep him from bringing his best to the interview situation.

So something that might seem very natural to you, just to connect with somebody based on shared physical characteristics as well as a shared experience, can be subsequently very harmful for a person that does not have those same shared experiences with you, because that bonding, that positivity isn't there in the same way.

Jeff: So like, if I was in a particular situation where I would be able to step out of myself and look at myself and be like, "Ah, that is a behavior based around a pattern that's wound up over all these years, through all these different things, and now I have to consciously unwind some of that pattern."

Evelyn: Yeah, so I think the first thing that you could do in order to foster that awareness, is to just look at your life. So think about where it was that you grew up, who were the friends that you had growing up? What were the kinds of influences that really shaped you and your attitudes and your beliefs about things.

So like, I grew up for example, I'm in the Christian church, and there are lots of different beliefs about homosexuality, about same sex marriage that kind of were ingrained in my as I was growing up. And those were things that I had to work to be aware of and unwind as went along my journey to being a more egalitarian person when it comes to members of the LGBT community.

So I think being mindful of how our backgrounds and our experiences are really shaping the way that we see the world around us, is really important. And then another thing that I think is really easy to do, is look around and see who your friends are. So there's a lot of research showing that, and this is not very surprising, we exist in silos. So we're pretty good within our society at coming together when it comes to work, mostly because we have to. And in some situations, when we're using shared resources, so like parks or grocery stores, things like that. But when it comes to social stuff, when it comes to the places that we go out to eat, the places that we relax, go to the movies, go shopping. Those are pretty segregated along racial lines, as well as socio-economic status lines.

And what that means is if you don't have friends who are from different backgrounds, you're probably missing out on an opportunity to get some of that information about what life is like for other people who are not like you. And that also means that because you are kind of getting the same amount of input, or the same type of input from different people, or from the same people rather, that you're kind of going to see one way of the world around you.

So I think that those two things are the first way to become aware of your biases because you can very easily say, "What am I missing? What part of the cultural knowledge, do I not have?" And then, "How do I go out and get it?"

Jeff: Right. You're also freaking me out a little bit and Sarah our producer is going to get pissed because I'm going to screech opera for a second. But like, so you're talking about restaurants and all these other things, but what about social media and artificial intelligence, right? Because that's like crazy because there's algorithms that are just going to spit back our ingroup to us, all day.

Evelyn: Exactly. Yeah. So this is actually something that I've become really aware of and really freaked out on actually on my own. And so one of the things that I've done on Facebook for example, you can select your newsfeed to either show you the most recent posts, or it just kind of picks the top stories using that algorithm. So I've actually switched my setting, every time I remember to, to go to most recent so that I can see all the different varieties of things people are talking about, right?

But that is one of the things that really freaks me out. It's that we have to be really aware of all of the different inputs that we're getting and if we're seeing something that makes us feel too comfortable, that makes us say, "Oh, yeah, I agree with everything that I'm seeing here, that's consistent exactly with how I see the world". That's probably a sign that we're not doing enough to stretch ourselves and find out information that might help enrich our lives and our perspectives by hearing from other people.

Jeff: Yeah. That's a really good tip.

Evelyn: Yeah, absolutely.

Jeff: So let's get into some actionable things that you can do to address some of these biases.

Evelyn: Okay, so one of the things that I think is rather simple, is to do essentially a version of what Kerry Kawakami and her colleagues refer to as, "Counter stereotyping training". Now, it's a really jargony way of saying that basically any time you get input that is consistent with a prevalent stereotype, you've got input that is consistent with a prevalent stereotype. You've gotta find information that's going to override that input, right?

So, when stereotypes are created, when those associations between a group and a particular category are created in our brains we are seeing lots of information. We're paying attention to lots of information that reinforces that stereotype. So, for example if I have the stereotype that black people are athletic, I am going to be more likely to notice when I see black guys playing basketball, right? Or black athletes on the tennis court or on ESPN and that's going to reinforce the idea in my mind that what black people do is play sports.

If I want to undo, unwind that association, right, and to override that stereotype I need to make sure that I'm finding information that doesn't just go consistent with that stereotype but that challenges  it, right? Maybe talk to somebody who doesn't know how to play sports that is also black.

Jeff: Yeah.

Evelyn: Find counter-stereotypical examples and I think that that's really important because it's essentially again, just overriding the associations that we had. Now, the sad thing about it is that you can't just undo years and years and years and years of socialization with reading a few news articles about really clumsy black people, so I wouldn't necessarily suggest that. It is an ongoing process but part of it is saying what are the things that I am taking for granted as true because society has told me those things are true, and how do I find information that really challenges it?

Jeff: Help me out 'cause everyone has these issues that they're grappling with.

Evelyn: Yeah.

Jeff: So, give me just things that I can do literally every day.

Evelyn: Yeah. I think exposing yourself to information, right? That's one of the ways that you can gather that counter-stereotypical information, right? Whether it's on social media making sure that you're reading news articles that talk about a number of different perspectives on a given issue, right? Or going out to coffee with that friend of yours who always seems to say things that you're just like I don't really get where you're coming from, right? Using that as an opportunity to say I think that you and I might have different perspectives perhaps based on the backgrounds that we have and I'd love to hear more from you about where your perspective's coming from. So, it's really about that exposure.

My personal favorite way to do this, I like talking obviously so I love talking to people but I also love reading. One of the things that I really encourage is for people to read books. There's lots of blogs, right? Think pieces that are out there written by people talking about a whole host of experiences. Even if you're living in the most homogenous community ever, you can still find some way to connect with the stories about people who are from different communities and learn about what their experiences are like.

Jeff: Give me a good book to read.

Evelyn: Oh, I'm not going to remember the author's name but the book is The Wangs vs. the World. It is about a family actually that lives in West L.A. I think maybe in Beverly Hills and it's during the time of the Great Recession. It's a Chinese American family and so the father kind of made his way up from nothing and then essentially as he loses his money in the recession and it's about their family. It's just a really ... It's nice because it's a story that is kind of a traditional quote unquote every day American story as you would read it, right? But it doesn't center around white people. It centers around Asian people. So, I think that that's also really nice, right? Because it starts to disrupt the idea that we can only tell simple or we can only tell really exciting kind of traditional American stories if they're featuring white people and that book is not and it's really funny. I highly recommend that one.

Then I would also recommend Homegoing and that one is by Yaa Gyasi. That book literally changed my life. It is a book about twin girls that are born in Africa and they are separated during the slave trade. One ends up getting taken over to the states and the other stays behind in Africa. The book follows their lineage and I think that that book is really nice because for me as a black woman, as a descendant of slavery I remember reading it and feeling like I connected with somebody who was finally telling my story in the way that I didn't even know how to articulate.

I think that if there are people out there who are wondering what does it feel like to not know your lineage past your great grandparents, right, what might it feel like to know that you are descendants of slavery and all of the different historical racism and current racism that you face. That book is a fantastic and really invigorating way to read and learn about that experience.

Jeff: Yeah.

Evelyn: I think books in general are so good, right? I have some friends who have a 20 month old and they read to him 40 minutes a day and they're really intentional about getting together a library of books that talks about all different kinds of experiences, right? So, he is biracial and they read lots of books about the March on Washington. They read books by Native American authors. They read books about members of the LGBTQ community.

It's just a really intentional thing that they are doing to say we know that our son is going to be inundated with all of these associations that we don't want him to have. So, we have to start early by disrupting those and helping expose him to information that really counters that narrative that he's going to be hearing as he continues to grow up in this country.

Jeff: What are your goals? What represents success for you in this work?

Evelyn: I don't know if I think about what success looks like mostly because I think I've resigned myself to the fact that the most successful thing ever would be to not have a job, right? My goal is to combat racism and so if I were really successful I would have combated it and it would be gone.

Jeff: Right. You're trying to work yourself out of a job.

Evelyn: Exactly. Fortunately slash unfortunately I don't think that's happening anytime soon.

Jeff: You might have a job for a while. I have a feeling.

Evelyn: So I think kind of my personal goal is to educate as many people about bias and to encourage as many conversations about it as possible because one of the things that I really realized is that I'm super comfortable talking about identity, like all the time, right? I realized some people like whisper when they say black, right? Or like Asian. I'm just like I don't do that, right? I'm out at restaurants talking and I'm like oh yeah, black person. People are looking at me like Evelyn, what are you doing, right?

So, I think that I'm very comfortable with it and I've recognized that a lot of conversations with other people have really been good because I bring that kind of comfort and we just talk very candidly and I want everybody to feel that kind of comfort when having conversations about this because the topic of racism is already contentious enough. There are very real differences in the way that we see and experience the world but I wish that we could have conversations about them that really recognize the perspectives of those who are experiencing the racism and discrimination and help to validate their experiences and figure out how we can work together to make change happen.

Fostering more conversation in a very comfortable way is probably my ultimate goal.

Jeff: Yeah. Well, it's good that that's your goal 'cause you're a wonderful connector.

Evelyn: Oh, thank you.

Jeff: And a prolific talker, already I get a sense of it. In the best way. 

Brené Brown has a wonderful quote.

Evelyn: Yeah.

Jeff: She says ... I'll butcher it but it's hard to hate up close.

Evelyn: Yeah. 

Jeff: Move in.

Evelyn: Yeah. 

Jeff: Right? 

Evelyn: Yeah.

Jeff: If you can connect with people through your enthusiasm I think that that brings us closer together and that gives us a sense of belonging and these biases perhaps start to melt away.

Evelyn: Yeah. Yeah. I think it's really important too because there are so many stories that I've seen from people who were saying somebody came up to me and said I've never seen a black person before, right? It's like oh, suddenly by meeting a real person I don't see it just as a stereotype, right? But I see you as the actual individual that you are, not in spite of your group membership, but I don't see you as just your race or your gender or your sexual orientation. I think that it's really important to come to a place where we can instead of seeing a person through the stereotypes and our assumptions that we place on them, see them as individuals and begin to celebrate all the parts of their identity that they think are important and to value those as we really foster those individual connections.

Jeff: Alright. Thank you Evelyn. You're doing great, great work.

Evelyn: Oh, thank you very much.

Jeff: I think you should run for office when you're done with this.

Evelyn: Oh my God. I can't even imagine running for office but I would be happy to work behind the scenes on somebody's campaign if they, you know...

Jeff: No, you're running for office.

Evelyn: Check in with me in 10 years. We'll see what happens.

Jeff: Evelyn and Pastor Ron taught us how our collective biases, although seemingly internal, ultimately result in experiences of discrimination and oppression towards those we see as “other.”

They underlined the importance of all of us individually doing everything we can to combat implicit bias, and the unfortunate results it produces within our society.

Ok, here are the three actionable takeaways.

#1 Collective action and activism!

If you have privilege or power, use it to empower other groups. Get involved with social justice-oriented groups near you. Connect with other motivated people both online and offline. If no groups exist? Start one! Searching Facebook groups or are great places to start.

#2 Share your insights with friends, family!

Action starts with awareness.

#3 Expand your horizons! In addition to changing your FB settings like Evelyn said, remember that intergroup contact and friendships are the best ways to reduce bias. This means working to treat “outgroup members” like “ingroup members.”

Like she said: small interactions matter! Holding a door, or offering a smile can go a long way. Work to expose yourself to new ideas, experiences, and perspectives through books, TV shows, social media, and making new friends.

We also have Pastor Ron’s guidebook to starting your own RA group available for free at

That’s it from the commune for this week. Please subscribe to the Commune podcast on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.

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