Want to Understand Race? Let’s Acknowledge Our Implicit Biases First

By Joseph Rendeiro, Media Relations Associate, NCLR

“Not to sound racist, but….”

“Why isn’t there a ‘White Entertainment Television’?”

“He’s so cute…for a black guy.”

In what seems like ages ago (aka two years) for the social media universe, a viral video called “Sh*t Girls Say” blew up on the Internet, inspiring hundreds of equally humorous parodies for every possible type of person, from Asian grandmas to hobbits. And while the videos were meant to be funny, highlighting extreme stereotypes in jest, reading video creator Francesca Ramsey’s thought process behind the making of her video sheds light on how something seemingly innocuous can offer legitimate social commentary. For Ramsey, the video is based on her real-life experiences and meant to both make people laugh and open their eyes to how they treat others of a different race.

Race is a difficult topic to address and often one that gets overlooked. Yes, we have Black History Month and Hispanic Heritage Month. Societal changes have spawned younger generations that are generally more inclusive and recognize that racism is unacceptable. But the reality is that many of us continue to treat people, and oftentimes people of color, differently because of our own biases, which, to be fair, most of us don’t recognize we hold on to.

With the help of partners such as NCLR, NAACP, and a host of others groups, MTV recently launched the “Look Different” campaign, an initiative aimed at younger generations to combat inequality based on race, gender, and sexuality. The campaign spotlights implicit bias—attitudes that a person may hold about another group of people at an unconscious level—that can manifest in exactly the kind of language Ramsey uses in her video. These comments and actions may not be intentional or have any malice behind them, but their effects are nonetheless damaging for minorities.

LookDifferent_logoThe “Look Different” campaign is focusing on race and ethnicity first, providing teens and young adults with a number of tools to help them not only recognize bias but also address instances of bias when they witness or experience them. Part of NCLR’s broader body of work is aimed at teaching the public, and particularly youth, about the effects of racial and ethnic bias, so we specifically worked with MTV to ensure that stereotypes and biases about Latinos and immigrants were addressed. Users can learn about the common types of racial bias that they may engage in without realizing it. For example, the site explains the concept of microaggressions, which are seemingly harmless phrases that add up to make people feel as though they are different or don’t belong.

The overall goal is to change people’s attitudes with the language and tools necessary to discuss a subject that many feel is off limits. By challenging existing beliefs about topics ranging from undocumented immigrants to affirmative action, we hope to make teens and young adults think twice before they call something “ghetto” or say that their friend “only got into this college because he’s Hispanic.”

Words have an impact; it’s time we start choosing them more wisely.

Do you think that you are biased? Explore lookdifferent.org and discover how your views may shape your interactions with certain groups of people. 

“What’s in the Chicken on Your Plate? Tears.”

By Catherine Singley, NCLR Economic Policy Project

Press conference, February 27, 2018 on Capitol Hill.  L to R:  Sherri Jones, Coalition of Poultry Workers; Salvadora Roman, poultry worker; Tom Fritzche, Southern Poverty Law Center; Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18); Hilary O. Shelton, NAACP; Rep. Bennie Thompson (MS-2); Rep. Marcia Fudge (OH-11).

Press conference, February 27, 2018 on Capitol Hill. L to R: Sherri Jones, Coalition of Poultry Workers; Salvadora Roman, poultry worker; Tom Fritzche, Southern Poverty Law Center; Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18); Hilary O. Shelton, NAACP; Rep. Bennie Thompson (MS-2); Rep. Marcia Fudge (OH-11).

The bitter cold temperatures in Washington this week didn’t deter a delegation of poultry workers from the warm states of North Carolina, Mississippi, and Arkansas from traveling to the nation’s capital.  They had a message to deliver to decision makers: stop a government proposal that would endanger the health and safety of poultry workers by speeding up production lines in American poultry processing facilities.  Yesterday, workers held a press conference on Capitol Hill with members of the Congressional Black Caucus, NCLR, the Southern Poverty Law Center, NAACP, Oxfam American, Food and Water Watch, and others, to describe the debilitating injuries they’ve suffered at work and to call on the Administration to halt a proposal that would make a bad situation worse.

The proposed rule change comes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the federal agency responsible for ensuring the safety of meat and poultry products.  If the rule is finalized, poultry companies would be allowed to speed up production from 140 to 175 birds per minute—a 25% speed up—that would lead to more injuries in poultry plants.  Many injuries are linked to the repetitive nature of poultry processing; workers can make up to 20,000 cutting or pulling motions a day.  As a result, poultry workers already experience high rates of traumatic injuries to their hands, wrists, and arms.

Why the line speed increase?  It’s included in the proposed rule as an economic incentive for companies to produce more chicken in exchange for adopting new food safety inspection measures (the basis of which has been heavily criticized by consumer advocates and the Government Accountability Office).

Not surprisingly, most of the debate about this proposal has been about the food safety benefits—or lack thereof—that would result if the rule is finalized.  It’s understandable that the public wants to know that their food is safe and it’s USDA’s job to assure that it is.

For everyone who is concerned about what’s in their meat, Bacilio Castro, from the North Carolina Worker Justice Center, had an answer:

“You want to know what’s in the chicken on your plate?  Tears.  Tears of the mothers who can’t lift their children because of the pain in their wrists and shoulders from working on the line.  We are not asking you to stop eating chicken.  We are simply asking to be treated as human beings and not as animals.”