I’ve thought about being black so much in these last few weeks; and what it sometimes comes with in this world.

It’s been exhausting.

And I’ve realised that I have implicit bias.   I believe we all do.

What do i mean?  Well, say I am at a shopping center in the outer-suburbs of Melbourne and I see an unkempt skeletal woman with thinning long hair standing by the entrance to the shops, my immediate assumption is that she’s unpredictable and might attack me.  I have assumed she’s high on drugs and she automatically seems dangerous to me.  But another woman wearing high-waisted jeans and on-trend boots looks perfectly safe to me.  Implicit bias.

Implicit bias is any unconsciously held set of associations about a social group.  Implicit biases are usually learned associations and social/cultural conditioning.  Things like mass media portrayal, religious beliefs and our upbringings play some role in shaping implicit biases.   These then influence how we behave towards other social groups due to the formation of stereotypes, causing us to discriminate against others.

Because implicit bias can lead to discrimination, I believe God calls me to not remain comfortable there, even though much is formed by factors outside my control.  He calls me to live to a higher standard.  As a Christian I know that we are all created in God’s image, and He calls each of us to love and respect each other the same.

So what should I do about the woman I encounter at the shops?  The first thing I ask myself is “What is it, that I believe about this person?”  The answer to this is that people that look like her are on drugs and dangerous.  Next, I ask myself ‘Where does my belief about her stem from?”  To answer this question, I have to admit that I’ve never been attacked by anyone like her but something has influenced me to believe it very possible.  I think it’s probably been through a mix of movies and what I’ve been told.

The next step, possibly the hardest, that I hope to take is to ask God to show me the deceitfulness in my heart.  The Bible says ‘Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.’ Psalm 139:23-24 (NIV).  I hope that considering, praying or meditating on this verse leads me to change my assumptions and behaviors towards her.

I pray to God He can help me do this.  I pray to God he can help us all do this, because as I said, living with the results of bias is exhausting.

If we can change, then I won’t have to experience again the ways in which others’ implicit biases have hurt me or my friends.

I won’t be told “Go back to your country, you black dog. ”

My sister, a physiotherapist, won’t be mistakenly asked to clean the spill on the floor in the hospital because she’s black so she must be the cleaner.

My friend won’t have her homework questioned by her teacher because it’s assumed, being black with a foreign accent, she isn’t capable of that standard of work.

My doctor friend won’t need to repeatedly explain ‘No, I’m not lost in the hospital , I am the attending doctor.’

Let’s do better.  As Christians I believe it’s our duty to check our implicit biases and model this to the rest of the world!

Lorraine Roberts