The news over the past weeks has been filled with stories of black men dying at the hands of police in situations where it appears that the police may have acted out of racial bias and with excessive force. If the police did act as they are being accused of acting, community outrage is justified, and reform is necessary.
But the bias acted out by some policemen may be a symptom of deeper problem: According to this article that appeared in the Washington Post on December 8, 2014, titled “Across America, whites are biased and they don’t even know it,” by Chris Mooney, most white Americans are unconsciously biased towards people of color.
It wouldn’t surprise me if non-whites were also unconsciously biased toward some group or another. Bias and prejudice seem to be common to many, if not all, people, all over the world.
So, perhaps the problem is not the police, but the bias hidden even from ourselves in our minds and hearts.
The reason I’m writing this article is because I’ve observed previously unconscious bias in my own mind. This happened as a result of my daily meditation practice. Now, I don’t mean that I observed the bias during my meditation practice. While meditating, I'm endeavoring to keep my mind focused only on mantra and breath. Rather, what I mean is that because of practicing meditation over many years, my mind has developed the habit and skill of constantly witnessing my thoughts and emotions throughout the day. So when biased thoughts and feelings have come into my mind, I've observed them. Invariably, when this happened, it was clear to me that this bias was not something I believe in. Actually, I thought, “where did that come from?” The answer always seemed to be, “from the culture I live in.”
If I had not become aware of this bias, I might have unconsciously acted it out. Instead, because of discovering it, I’ve been able to choose to let it go.
Meditation built the skills that enabled me to become aware of bias in my mind, so I could take steps to root it out, rather than act it out. Meditation can do the same for you.