Unconscious bias is a set of thoughts, feelings, and beliefs that may lead to actions and opinions towards groups of people. This bias is directed towards people outside of one’s own identity group and may lead to stereotypes directed to those they perceive to be different than them.
Unconscious bias is hard to detect because it often shows up in untraceable, common, and more socially acceptable ways than overt discrimination. An example of unconscious bias would be someone gravitating towards friends that are of a similar race as them and having misconceptions and stereotypes towards people of other races. The key distinction here between preference and bias is that the friendship and connection include a negative association with other races.
Since unconscious bias is hard to detect, it is also difficult to change. With unconscious bias, the main method of changing this is to constantly challenge the assumptions and stereotypes that people make. Everyone has biases, but the way to change this is to not act on these biases and challenge them when they show up.
1. When someone comes to you for help as a result of being targeted by discrimination, a hate incident, or racism it is important to assess your ability to work with them. Do you have the capacity to make them feel comfortable? Are you knowledgeable about the issue to support the specific individual? Even if you do not feel comfortable or knowledgeable, it is important to know how you can support them even if it by referral.
2. Incidents of violence, injury or personal attacks affect each person. Having someone to listen, acknowledge what they have to say and believe their account is the first step. Most people are impacted in some way and simply want to tell and connect with someone; it is important to let the person know you are willing to listen, not judge or blame and allow them to guide you as to how they want you to help.
3. You may not have all the information, you may want to consult with others who have the information and/or resources and are more familiar with the specific issue. You can then refer the person to the appropriate organization and follow the guidelines provided on paragraph number 10.
4. Keep your personal biases at check, this will help you build trust with the person and ultimately help to provide effective service. (Refer to the unconscious bias Guidelines).
5. View the person as a whole by supporting their other characteristics (e.g. sexual orientation, disability, religion, etc.)
6. Be aware of community norms to establish rapport with the person.
7. Keep in mind that coping with prejudice may be part of their everyday experience, and this will likely become part of any work with the person affected.
8. The targeted person might be hesitant to report a hate incident to law enforcement because of a series of different feelings, including fear of secondary victimization and/or lack of trust in the police; fear of being judged by community members, lack of trust that the incident will be dealt with, or because they do not want to feel like a victim.
9. When referring the person to another agency for support, keep in mind that people that belong to more than one minority group might be more reluctant to want to report the incident to external agencies because they are at higher risk of being discriminated against. Do you know people at the agency you are referring to, have you built relationships with them? Have others felt supported going to the agency?
10. Hate incidents can generate feelings of fear, lack of safety and vulnerability in all members of the targeted community, for the targeted person this might increase the feelings of being marginalized.
11. Consider the strong psychological impact of the hate incident because it represents a serious attack on an essential aspect of the victim’s identity. Some of the feelings reported by Albertans that have faced hate include feelings of self-doubt; feelings of less masculinity for transgender individuals, emotionally unstable, anxiety, low self-worth, and sense of vulnerability.
12. Avoid making the individual feel like you have pity for them or that they are being assessed.
13. Identify the individual’s support system including key people/organization(s).This can be done by asking how exactly they want to be supported and identifying whether or not a person highly identifies with their identity group , you might better predict the types of problems the person might face and be able to refer them to supports accordingly:
- The stronger the bond the person has with the identity characteristics targeted in the incident, the more at risk the person is to develop issues related to their identity such as the sense of belonging.
- Those who do not have strong bonds to the identity characteristics targeted in the crime may be more likely to blame themselves, feel worthless and not report the crime
- People with a strong community identity might have a better support network and might be more willing to try to find coping mechanisms within their community. Ask them if they would like to access supports within the community, giving the person the freedom to choose to what level they want to identify themselves with the identity group and receive support from them.
14. The person may try to minimize their identity differences to fit in the dominant culture. Specific to the LGBTQ2S+ community, people may react to being attacked by questioning their decision to be “out”, leading to wishes to hide their sexuality for them to feel less vulnerable.
15. Explain possible negative reactions from their support networks, help them understand those negative responses (e.g. disbelief, disagreement, or not support) and help them reconnect with their network.
16. Highlight any areas of strength or resilience.
17. Identify how the targeted person relates to the dominant culture and help them understand that the acts of prejudice do not represent society as a whole. This will help the person to not feel angry with society at large and might help to reduce feelings of vulnerability.
18. Dealing with hate incidents can be emotionally hard, have a self-care strategy in place.
Hate hurts the mind and heart of the person targeted, but its impact goes beyond one individual, it affects society as a whole, as a support organization or worker you can also do community-based interventions such as awareness campaigns, advocate for changes in public policy and other educational strategies.
These guidelines are based on the Working with victims of crime: A manual applying research to clinical practice (Second Edition): 9.0 Victims of Hate and Hate Crimes, and the results from the focus groups and provincial survey on hate incidents conducted by the Coalitions Creating Equity.
For more information, visit: https://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/rp-pr/cj-jp/victim/res-rech/p13.html
This resource was created by the Coalitions Creating Equity with the support of the Human Rights Education and Multiculturalism Fund.
Peer to Peer Support Guidelines
Peer to peer support guidelines vary from group to group and depends on the group norms. Being aware of personal triggers and boundaries are essential during this process and as well as the impact of peer pressure. Peer to Peer support can be very effective as a tool when facing acts of hate or discrimination. Some good resources on this include "