Even if you typically turn a blind eye to tabloid fodder, it’s nearly impossible to ignore the headlines about Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Recently, news sources reported a letter written between King Charles and Meghan Markles regarding the incident where a family member made comments about the skin color of Harry and Meghan’s unborn child.
This situation is not new, but the Duchess did use a DEI term that is relevant to the wider public when addressing the situation with the King. Meghan wrote about the unconscious bias that the Royal family member had when discussing the baby’s skin color.
Unconscious bias is a term often used in the DEI realm, but it’s not in everyone’s everyday vernacular. Let’s unpack what unconscious bias is and how it relates to the alleged racism we can see in daily life.
What is Unconscious Bias?
Unconscious biases, also known as implicit biases, are social stereotypes about certain groups that people form without conscious awareness. It’s important to remember that everyone has unconscious beliefs that they’ve learned and formed about different social and identity groups. These beliefs are created based on how we were raised, and our tendency to organize social worlds into categorization.
Furthermore, unconscious bias is far more common than outright prejudice. For this reason, people can be ardently anti-racist, and they may still have unconscious biases about certain races in their subconscious.
While unconscious biases existing may not be your “fault” — after all, everyone has them — it is up to every individual to address them. These attitudes and stereotypes can involuntarily affect how we think or act, impacting dynamics in our daily lives.
Is Unconscious Bias Different Than Racism?
Yes, unconscious bias and racism are distinct from one another. Unconscious bias are learned social stereotypes that people are often unaware of. In fact, at a surface level, they may even feel strongly that they hold beliefs contrary to their unconscious biases.
Racism denotes a system of color-based prejudice. It’s often learned consciously because there is system oppression of a racial group for social, economic, and political advantage of another.
In the royal family’s case, Megan was asserting that the family member who made the comment about the skin was making a microaggression based on their unconscious bias, which they had not yet made an effort to address. However, they were not racist in the sense that they were consciously trying to oppress her unborn son due to his race.
Though a conversation between a King and Duchess may not seem all that relevant to you, microaggressions as a result of unconscious biases occur every single day in the workplace. These are situations that you can prevent by becoming better informed. Taking implicit bias training such as a cultural competency training can open your eyes to the unconscious biases you possess and give you the tools to help you limit their impact on your thoughts and behavior.