It was an honor to offer practical but life changing tips to refugee service providers so that they can help their clients combat racism and embrace an empowered and resilient mindset in the face of discriminatory media, policies, and residents in their new communities.
Thanks to Nezia Munezero Kubwayo from the Ethiopian Community Development Council (ECDC) for interviewing me on this important topic. She notes that protests, police brutality, and rioting are potentially traumatic emotional triggers for those who have fled war and unrest. She also notes that the 24/7 news cycle can be alarming and confusing for those who may have limited English proficiency and understanding of the history and present day manifestations of racism in the USA.
Check out an excerpt of the article below and visit Switchboard for the full article.
At an individual level, service providers must become aware of implicit and explicit biases they have related to race. Implicit bias, or unconscious bias, is the brain’s automatic association of stereotypes or attitudes about particular groups, often without conscious awareness.
Explicit bias, on the other hand, is an attitude or belief about a person or group on a conscious level. It’s important that service providers who want to have conversations about race with refugees first acknowledge their own biases, so they are able to avoid making assumptions about someone else’s lived experiences.
All individuals have some form of implicit and/or explicit biases related to race; service providers must frankly acknowledge these biases before addressing and dismantling them. If they fail to do so, they may make unfounded assumptions about their clients and other members of their community, perpetuating racial bias within their communities and the populations they serve.
Dr. Stephanie Akoumany is the founder and CEO of Bloom, a company that curates leadership, wellness, and community-building programs for individuals, families, schools, nonprofits, and businesses.
Do A Bias Check
Akoumany explains an easy way to get started with doing a bias check is to “close your eyes and think about a time you were discriminated against—even if you identify as a White American—for any part of your identity: the food you eat, your religion, sexuality, color of your skin, or your hair style.
Focus on how it made you feel, think about the power—did you have the power to say something? Did you feel like anyone could help? Or, did you feel stuck, disrespected, humiliated?”
By taking a moment to pause and reflect, service providers can show themselves empathy. Providers can apply this same self-empathy when thinking about times they demonstrated bias, whether consciously or unconsciously.
Akoumany explains that it’s important to reflect “without judging ourselves; that’s the key to all of this.” She notes that “White guilt, or any kind of guilt, is not helpful. It will not make you less racist.” Individuals should use this exercise as an opportunity for “lifelong learning,”
Akoumany encourages. “It’s okay to make mistakes; know you have to try, make it a lifestyle, and look within.” Importantly, service providers should also consider how they can improve and hold themselves accountable, reducing the impact of bias on their clients, communities, and loved ones.
For more tools on how these tools can also help you take the first steps towards understanding bias, privilege, and systemic racism in the U.S:
Test Yourself for Hidden Bias by Teaching Tolerance. Note that this tool should be used just to help you explore implicit biases, not as a formal evaluation.
Complete a Personal Privilege Profile by the Interaction Institute for Social Change, 2011. This can help you understand how your background and experiences may have given you advantages or disadvantages, compared to other members of your community.
Research the role of systemic racism in the U.S., through sources such as Social Justice and Liberation Centered Books, Websites and Articles compiled by Inclusive Therapists. This can help you understand how race has impacted policies and how race shapes the experience of every American, whether they know it or not.
We can all bloom when we make diversity, equity, inclusion, and wellness a priority. Don't forget to read the full article at Switchboard and go to Bloom's blog The Blooming is A Habit Podcast for more antiracism, wellness and self-discovery tips.