There are a lot of ways to make a difference and fight for social and racial justice. And, as parents, one of the biggest things you can do is to do the work yourself — and then make sure you’re talking to your kids about it, too. To help with that — and to specifically address the unconscious bias that we all have — we have an exclusive Q&A with the international, award-winning diversity and inclusion speaker and expert Risha Grant.
As Risha says: We don’t have diversity problems; we have people problems.
“And we have to dismantle the system and address these issues on a micro level,” Risha says. “Everybody is a center of influence to someone and each one should reach one.”
Being Black, female and queer while growing her small business Risha Grant LLC and tackling economic issues at major talks and conferences, every area of her life intersects diversity — while based in Tulsa, Okla., one of the “reddest” states in the nation.
In addition to being an edgy educational and motivational speaker, and consultant to major companies, she’s also the author of That’s BS! How Bias Synapse Disrupts Inclusive Cultures. Learn more about her work and her services here.
Then, read on for how you can become aware of your own unconscious biases and help your children do the same — along with more on BS, AKA Bias Synapse. Such important info!
How can we as parents become aware of our unconscious biases?
Risha Grant: You become aware of unconscious bias through introspection; self-awareness. It takes work. Do you get uncomfortable around black folks or people of color, LGBT+ people, men, people with tattoos, dyed hair or piercings, people who wear turbans or hijabs? Begin by thinking about who makes you uncomfortable and why.
Once you understand that, do a deep dive by asking yourself questions about why you are uncomfortable and where the behavior originated.
How can we help our children do the same?
Your children are watching you. They learn from your behavior and they are listening even when you think they are doing something else. Watch your language and actions when you are upset, especially about an issue related to race or some other diverse characteristic of a person.
When something does happen to you that is offensive, make sure you discuss it in terms of that person and not the entire group they belong to. Also, be sure not to make comments specific to their race, sexual orientation, gender, etc. while you are upset.
Once we have the awareness, what steps can we take to eliminate bias?
You have to confront bias and break down the barriers that have been created. You do that by building authentic relationship with those you are biased against.
Invite someone for a cup of coffee to get to know them but don’t expect them to educate you about their diversity. In those conversations, you begin to see people for who they are not the preconceived notions in your head.
Can you tell us more about B.S. or Bias Synapse?
A synapse is how your brain communicates between brain cells, usually in one direction. Our biases react the same way; they flow in one direction, which is usually negative.
It is also believed that we live our lives in the synapse of our brain, which is where all our memories are created. This can cause our brain to work on autopilot based upon the memories we have. In that regard, if a person of color has ever offended you or if you have heard negative stories about them, your brain may work on autopilot and put every person that looks like the person you have an issue with in the same box. You will treat them accordingly. Remember, your bias does show up in your behavior.
Also, it is a play on bullshit because when we treat people differently based upon some diverse characteristic, it is bullshit.
What are some good conversation starters / entry points for learning about this for younger kids (pre-school and younger), elementary school-aged children, and older kids?
There is a book called the Antiracist Baby, which is a good start. Also, NetFlix now has a Black Lives Matter section with great movies and documentaries. Research the topic, there are a lot of great resources out there. (*Editor’s note: See below for more resources.)
What other ways can families help create lasting change?
- Make sure you have diverse friends that your kids see you interact with.
- Set up play-dates for your kids with other diverse kids.
- Spend money in diverse communities.
- Consume diverse media so you and your kids get a real understanding of diverse people.
- Discuss race and the affect it has had on people and the world.
How will you begin addressing your own unconscious biases and help your kids to do the same? Now is the time and no kiddo is too young! Remember: You can learn more and work with Risha here. –Jenn