As the dreaded tax season approached in the United States, I knew I needed to collect all the required paperwork and make an appointment with my accountant. Since I was in the vicinity of his office, I pulled into the parking lot, went into the office and was greeted by a new office receptionist.

Anxiously, I stated I wanted to make an appointment with Mr. Jones (name changed) to review my 2020 taxes. I provided my name and then it began, the perceptions, the stereotypical beliefs about Blacks, about Black women.

The questions became insulting, one after another: “Do you rent?” No, I own my home, I replied. Again, the receptionist asked, “do you pay rent monthly where you live?” “NO!,” I replied. “Did you receive the stimulus money?” “No.” She followed up with “You didn’t receive any stimulus money?” “No, I earn too much money,” I reply (with a smile).

“Do you…”at that point, I stopped her.

I stated that “Mr. Jones has been my accountant for 15 years, please make me an appointment with him and if he has any questions he can call me”. She mumbled some words under her breath and made the appointment.

As I left the building, I wondered, what triggered her perceptions about me? Couldn’t I be a Black woman who owns a home, has a good job, and did not receive stimulus money? Maybe it was my personal appearance that day; whatever the reason, I knew it was an important topic to discuss — what triggers our stereotypes? 

Recognizing Stereotypes

Recognizing that we carry implicit biases that drive stereotypical attitudes and behaviors towards individuals who are not like us begins with self-awareness. Our self-awareness influences who we are and how we view others, do we appreciate their differences or do we find those differences as a negative aspect of them as a person? 

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So, what can you do to recognize your stereotype (implicit) biases?

Think about the questions you ask to individuals who are not like you. Are those questions deeming, judgmental, or attack their self-esteem? If the answer is yes, then you are projecting an implicit bias.

The Message Your Non-verbal Behaviors Send

When you encounter someone different, are they invited into your group, or do you move away from them quickly as possible as if they are contagious? Do you project body language that is stand-offish?

These are messages of division and may perpetuate stereotypes that may be related to socio-economic class and ultimately separation.

Finally, are you using microaggressions and micro-inequities to send subtle messages of differences and insults? These are words or phrases that slip into your conversation often without notice. Examples include:

  • Ignoring someone in a greeting
  • Giving accolades to one person in an introduction, but not the other
  • Ignoring one gender over another gender
  • Refusing to call someone by their given name or always mispronouncing their name
  • Using the phrase “man up”

Reflecting on your past conversations, if you’ve said any of these examples or others, then it’s time to work on being more inclusive. One of my favorite hobbies is cooking. I love to create dishes, mixing ingredients, and serving a wonderful dish to friends, family and even people I don’t know. Who will be tasting your next dish? Who will you invite to have a seat at your table?

This is your opportunity to increase your self-awareness and invite more people who are different from you to your table.