The last two years have taught some of us that we might be more racist than we think, at least unconsciously. A research-based article in Mindful Magazine’s December 2021 issue argues that mindfulness exercises may give us tools to reduce unconscious bias. And I see the point.
Neuroscientist Wendy Hansenkamp, who is a visiting assistant professor at the University of Virginia, wrote the article. I cannot find the article online. But discussions about it and other information on mindfulness and bias are on the magazine’s website here.
She writes that “society, culture, media and power structures” can instill prejudice in our subconscious without us realizing it. The big idea is that engaging repeatedly in practices that increase awareness, focus on our similarities as humans, and develop care and kindness can combat this implicit bias.
Hansenkamp goes into several studies that indicate that this works. I believe it on its face, and I think Christian mindfulness gives us an even better chance of rooting out stereotypes and subconscious fears.
She focuses most on the loving-kindness practice, which I have adapted for Christian mindfulness here. This practice retains enough distance from the subject to emphasize our common role as God’s beloved children. Hansenkamp also discusses a 2014 Yale study that showed that participants who had been practicing loving kindness reduced their implicit bias, while those who only learned and discussed the subject did not.
By seeing each individual around us as a creation of God and blessing those people in our words and actions, we can come closer to ending any unconscious prejudice we carry. Take a look at your practice and see if you can incorporate the faces of those different from you in your work on your own compassion.