Unlearning Everyday Racism

How uncovering and uprooting Confirmation Bias can help you get better at talking about race and taking action against racism

Confirmation bias is a thinking error that can keep racial stereotypes and prejudices and racist thinking stuck in your head. What happens is we start with a belief and then interpret any new information in a way that reinforces our (or our family, workplace or group’s) biases, theories, convictions and ideas.

I have a 4 step process that I use to identify and dislodge racist thinking that I am having trouble shaking. Give this process a try and let me know how it goes for you. Pick something easy to start with (not a cherished belief that you have had for years)

  1. Write down your belief (Example: My expensive shoes make me walk faster)
  2. Spend some time looking for disconfirming evidence. Write those down. (Example: I could time myself wearing different shoes or I could look for times when I walk more slowly in the expensive shoes)
  3. Look through the disconfirming evidence (evidence that might mean your belief is wrong) and notice any excuses or special cases you make to disprove this new evidence and hang on to your belief. (Example: I walked quite slowly in the expensive shoes but that was because I had eaten a big meal earlier. I walked faster in the cheap shoes but that was because I was chilly)
  4. Look for commonalities in the exceptions. What question might you ask to help you take a more objective look at these exceptions and the belief itself? (Example: What do I have at stake that makes me look for special cases for each new piece of disconfirming evidence? Do I have a stake in believing that the more expensive shoes were worth buying?
  5. Try this on a racial belief you have. For example an HR manager might believe that all employees are treated fairly and because of confirmation bias sees evidence of that everywhere. By taking some time to look for disconfirming evidence, by looking for how complaints are handled and how they resolve for employees of color separate from how they are handled and resolved for white people. When the manager begins to see the disparities “special case” thinking can take over and they might come up with various reasons each person of color had the experience they did. If the manager takes the time to write these down and look for what the exceptions or special cases have in common they could uncover a variety of uncomfortable new thoughts. One could be that the organization the manager had a lot of pride in working for has some structural racism going on. Or that the manager had missed racial disparities and treated employees of color differently thus causing them harm.

Let me know if you give this a try and what the outcome was!


Kalissa Scopes, Unlearning Everyday Racism

Here is the link to the Unlearning Everyday Racism Roadmap I mentioned in the previous video. You can use the roadmap to come up with some categories or some ideas for learning areas.

And get in touch if you need some help with this part of the process! Email me at unlearningeverydayracism@gmail.com!


Talking to Other White People About Race Checklist

  1. Do your own work
  2. Schedule the conversation
  3. Assess the other person
  4. Identify your “Why”
  5. Let your body help you
  6. Consider the stakes
  7. Get honest about motives
  8. Take context into account
  9. Plan the conversation
  10. Have the conversation
  11. Debrief and celebrate
  12. Choose your next conversation
Click on the button below for all the notes, steps and videos in one place and to get some individual help from me if you need it.