Am I racist? Notes of a black woman

I hope not, but a conversation at work got me thinking.

A cherished colleague at work stopped me in my tracks lately. I’ve started to wonder, do I have an unconscious bias about race?

He told me that he is mixed race; his father is English and his mother is from the Global South. I automatically assumed that his white English family were less loving, joyful and nurturing than his mother’s side. I used my own personal experience and belief to make assumptions about his. He promptly corrected me. I couldn’t have been further from the truth. He told me that his father was just as loving.

What made me automatically assume this about his family whom I had never met?

I guess it was a reflection of my own personal experience comparing my English and Nigerian families and stereotypes I have absorbed about “the English”. I assumed that his experience was like my own.

I always felt a stark contrast between the two sides of my family. The Nigerians would travel the length of the country just to be together for special occasions, whilst my English side live as neighbours but are distant.

I also cast aside any extremely loving and nurturing white English people I have encountered who are not from my family. There are so many people that go against the stereotype of a “stiff upper lip”, who by my definition have huge hearts and generously give their love unconditionally to all.

Likewise, not every Nigerian or person from the Global South (yes, that was how wide ranging my assumption was!!) is super loving and accepting!! How could they be? How could millions of people behave in one way? I was simply completely wrong.

I am not a racist, but this experience has rocked my world a little by showing my unconscious bias. I seem to be unknowingly applying the same false ideas about race that I am so vehemently against.

I’m so grateful for this conversation I had with my colleague who acted as a mirror for me so that I could see my incorrect assumptions. This has been a wake up call and something that is cause for pause and reflection.

Junior developer

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Junior developer