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Unlearning Racism and Identifying Biases

I grew up as the only person of color in my household; I had a white dad who married a white woman and had two more white sons. We lived in a suburban white area, and all my parents' friends were white. I never knew this racial isolation would leave me with unconscious bias, but it did. Before the YWCA Unlearning Racism course, I thought I knew everything about racism, biases, and how race impacts how one moves throughout the world. But as the six weeks course progressed, I found myself feeling uncomfortable, feeling that I still need a lot of work to dismantle racism, but there was light at the end of the tunnel.

The class that stuck with me the most was on the topic of bias, explicit and implicit. We had to watch the TED Talk by Verna Myers, "How to overcome our biases? Walk boldly towards them." Within this video, she shares that those who attended her workshop on diversity will state, "But we don't have a biased bone in our body." And her reply back to these attendees was, "Really? Because I do this work every day, and I see all my biases." She continued the TED Talk with examples where she had caught herself having a bias, that's when I had to dig deep to uncover my own unconscious biases and understand and face them. This is where I encourage everyone to take the Implicit Association Test that measures unconscious bias. It was surprising to learn through Verna Myers’ TED Talk that when people take the race-specific test, seventy percent of white people taking that test prefer white, and fifty percent of Black people taking that test prefer white. 

Overall, the class was needed for me as well as others who attended. For each class, there were multiple opportunities for small group breakouts to discuss and digest the material. It was nice to see numerous individuals from a handful of organizations and businesses in Milwaukee, working together towards the same goal to end racism, open the minds of others, and end the idea of colorblindness. 

Alexandria Kohn is an MPH Candidate at the UWM Zilber School of Public Health and was a summer 2020 Intern at Community Advocates Public Policy Institute.