Article 2- September 20

I Want People to Be Equal... how can I be part of the solution?

by Johnna Godinez, Program Assistant

You might think that the topics of racism and bias are controversial, but they are not for me. As a Latina, I live with them every day. In this article, my goal is to provide you with simple strategies that you can use on a daily basis to promote racial equity in this country. First, let’s refer to the dictionary to define equity and bias. Equity is simply defined as “freedom from bias, and favoritism.” Bias means having unfair prejudice or favoritism for one group when compared to another group. An example of bias, which I totally disagree with, would be hate toward all Asians because COVID-19 originated in China. So, equity is simply seeing everyone as equal. Seems simple, right? Well, here are a few things that you can do each day to promote equality:

1.      First, what’s your bias? – We all need to figure out if we are bias toward one group. Start by thinking about your reactions when around certain groups, including your, 1) emotions, 2) physical responses (heartbeat rate, level of muscle tension versus relaxation, etc.), and 3) which words you associate when you see images, or have personal encounters, with individuals who are white, black, and of other races and ethnicities. Basically, science says that if you tense-up, feel afraid or anxious, or associate negative words when viewing a photo or being in the presence of a person of another race or ethnicity, then you have some bias. Again, bias is preferring one race over another. Recognition is the first step. Humans cannot erase their biases, but we can choose to advocate for those who are different from us.

2.      Second, do your research – Learn about the definitions of the following words: racism, segregation, bias, racist, ethnicity, prejudice, lynching, institutional racism, xenophobia, and Jim Crow. Understanding these terms will help you gain your voice and contribute more to all conversations about racial equality in our country.

3.      Do you have more privilege than others? – Be sensitive to the fact that your skin color directly effects how you are treated in society and your experience living in this country. Skin color effects your interactions with the justice system, personal safety levels, education level, employment opportunities, income level, where you live, your general health, access to health insurance, fresh foods, and healthcare. Just a suggestion- get more experience being around people of other races/ethnicities. Look for opportunities to be friends with others from racial/ethnic groups different from yours.  

4.      Heart learning – As you begin to gain more friends from different racial/ethnic groups plan on listening more than you speak. Take what you learned about those different from you and emotionally and mentally compare it to your world view (what you know about your own race, culture, or ethnicity). Next, try and find a place in the middle that will help you have more of an understanding of other people’s experiences and why they might feel like they are less than or have less opportunities. 

5.      Practice open mindedness – Avoid pushing your feelings about certain ethnicities, races, or cultures on other people. This tends to block the opportunities for learning about others. If you are asked about it, then share.

6.      Just love people for who they are – Part of my elementary school career was at Hillcrest in Lawrence. The children of international students enrolled at the University of Kansas attended Hillcrest. I had friends of many religions and from many countries around the world (South and Central America, Israel, Egypt, India, Turkey, Japan, France, Greece, and Norway). Being at this school taught me to listen, learn, experience, and finally love the differences I found in my school mates who I became friends with. My tip: just love people.