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Mod 2.5: Self-awareness isn’t enough, how can we understand racial biases and ensure we recognized decisions and literature that fuels the racial divides

Mod 2.5: Self-awareness isn’t enough, how can we understand racial biases and ensure we recognized decisions and literature that fuels the racial divides?

I’ve always thought of myself as seeing people as equals and not harboring racial thoughts, especially coming from a multiracial home. My dad is white and my mom is Filipino. That is a sentence I’ve used many times to describe my ethnicity, but I never really thought about the implications of broad categorization until reading Yanow’s chapters on Census data. I’ve noticed when watching shows and listening to people who are Asian or African will pinpoint where their family is from and not use a broad term. That is because it means something more to them. It is their identity and history. But you don’t really see that when Caucasian people talk about themselves, it’s generally just white. I believe that’s because what Yanow (2003) points out is due to tests, forms and Census data we had to fill at a young age. When the form asks about ethnicity, it really is asking about skin color. Unless they talk about their family’s history and where they came from, most of my white friends just see themselves as white.

Race IAT

When we completed the IATs prior to the start of our master’s program, I was glad the race IAT was mandatory. It is an uncomfortable subject for people to approach and having a neutral test show how we react is a good indicator on where we stand. When I took the test, my scores results stated “Your data suggest a moderate automatic preference for White people over Black people”. As uncomfortable as I felt with that, I can see how that biased came about. Like everyone else, our personalities and opinions are shaped in the environment we grow up in. I grew up in predominately white suburban neighborhoods which is part of the reason why my results showed that preference.

In Practice

As students we have the privilege to learn about and reflect on these topics. As future public administrators it is important for us to understand them to create social equity. The theory of social equity is easy, but the practice is difficult for other reasons. One aspect Frederickson (2010) stated “senior public administrators and those of us who study public administration are part of the elite, the privileged.” Even thought we may not feel that way, especially out of college, we still have that unique experience and understanding most people don’t have. Additionally, we will end up in positions where our decisions will affect someone or some group and ensuring social equity is difficult. Vulchi and Guo (2018) brought up the idea of having heart and mind in order to be racially literate. And that’s where I pose my initial question, awareness isn’t enough. They described having understanding through experiences and compassion can help bridge that gap. But even then, that isn’t enough. When people become frustrated or passionate, old lingering feelings can come about that we must understand. It can take everything we’ve learned and push it aside such as the cases shown from COVID-19.

 

COVID-19 demonstrated a side of racism not talked about much and that’s the racism against Asian Americans. COVID-19 sparked a rise in tension and racism towards Asian Americans by avoiding their businesses to attacks. The uptick of racism towards Asians has increased across the globe to include Europe. When Texas lifted their mask mandates and went back to full capacity, one local restaurant owner decided to keep those rules for his shop only to have it vandalized with “Kung Flu” and “Hope you die”. People claim to be compassionate, but strong emotions can stir up repressed feelings that need to be understood, realized, and changed.

I believe all of us can truly become anti-racial in our actions and learn social equity, but how can we address potential issues within ourselves or our organizations to address racial divide? Where have you seen strong emotions negate equitable decision making?

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