Course Overview & Introduction

Module 1: Welcome to Beyond Bias: Dialogs on Race

Course Overview and Introduction

Welcome to Beyond Bias: Dialogs on Race. Thank you for joining us.

This course is about racial bias— specifically, about bias against Black people. The course will help you to develop a clear understanding of how biases develop, and what can be done to change them, so that we are better prepared to act, and to interact with others, in ways that are aligned with our values.

No matter what your own racial background is, the material we cover in this course will give you important food for thought, because it’s well known that people sometimes hold negative thoughts and stereotypes about members of a group they may belong to themselves.

Let’s talk about stereotypes. When I say the words “young men,” what comes to mind? And how do you think you are able to make associations about “young men” so quickly? Now, let me give you another phrase—“young Black men.” Same associations, or something different?

Where do our ideas—along with the feelings we have—about particular groups of people come from? To answer that question, we have to take a short detour into the subject of memory. Any time a past experience has an effect on our behavior, memory is at work. Consider what a huge job the brain has each day.

We have events that we participate in, hear or read about, or we see portrayed on television or our devices. Our brain must make decisions about what is important to keep or ignore, and then it is left with a huge amount of information it must store.

The brain stores information about a large number of categories that are ready in the future, to be pulled up when needed. One of the storage mechanisms our brain uses is stereotypes—not necessarily because they are always accurate, but because they can be quickly accessed.

Our stereotypes develop from things we have experienced directly, read about, seen or heard in the media, or been told about by family and friends.

All of this information is contained in our stereotypes, but the source of the information is not always retained along with the memory. When I say “young Black men,” your brain provides the stored information you have experienced, read about, heard, or obtained in some other way.

While the ability to categorize according to stereotypes is a vitally important function of the brain, you don’t know how accurate any particular stereotype is.

As we go through this course, we will be encouraging you to examine common stereotypes about Black people, and will present you with information for your consideration.

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