The human mind is programmable and everything we take in -- consciously or unconsciously -- alters that programming. I've recently realized that I have a high level of skill at programming my mind because I started very early. I have always believed that some people can 'hear' thoughts and that I can't tell who can, so if I ever think it would be shitty to SAY something, I make sure I do not THINK it either. That habit started because I didn't want especially-sensitive (thought-reading) people to think badly of me, and as I developed a taste for honesty and openness, it became more central. If I want to be honest and open, ready to answer truthfully whenever someone might ask "what are you thinking?" I need to make sure that my thoughts and utterances match. I consider it a level of profound dishonesty to think one thing and utter another. (This is why I want people to call me by the pronoun that reflects how they see me, rather than the one that reflects how I see myself. If they gender me, I want to know)
I've heard many people say that they "can't help how they think" and to a certain extent, that's true. We can't help the ways that societal bullshit imprints on us, or the thoughts that pop up unbeckoned. We CAN control a good bit of what we let in, and we CAN "talk back," and over time we CAN silence those sexist, racist, etc thoughts. It takes discipline and practice. It takes recognizing that there is some HORRIBLE SHIT inside us, and instead of moving on quickly when we have rotten thoughts, we need to examine them and talk back. An example would be body policing: back in the day I might see someone with clothing that highlights their fat, and think to myself, "she shouldn't be wearing that, she looks awful." Instead of responding to my shame by ignoring the fact that I'd just thought that, I would talk back by saying, "why am I judging how someone else chooses to decorate themselves? She has a right to put anything on her body that she wants. She has no obligation to dress in a way that I would prefer. What is it that I think this person 'shouldn't' be doing? Showing their fat. What is wrong with that? nothing. What is it that is preventing me from seeing this person as perfectly beautiful? I am thinking that fat is bad. Fat is not bad, it is just a body part. Now I will look again with intent of seeing them without the lens of social judgement. Now I can see [the entire person, whom I missed because I was so busy judging out of fatphobia]." Fatphobia is an easy example for me because I feel sure that I'm 99% over it. I have no idea how much of most other prejudices are still in me, so those are harder to talk about. It's weird because at a certain point of learning about racism and sexism, I would hear those things in my head. I would hear things like "bitch" or "watermelon" (the last one I found very strange because I didn't even know that liking watermelon was a stereotype until I took a class on racism) and be shocked and ashamed that those associations were in my head, particularly because I had never accepted them as truth, and yet there they were, in my subconscious. I still feel a lot of shame that that would ever occur to me, but my only power over my mind is what I allow to STAY, not what comes in (though that, too, we can affect by not watching media that supports stereotypes, not putting up with other people saying prejudiced stuff, limiting our exposure to those memes as much as we can).
If lookist/racist/sexist/ableist (etc) slurs come to your mind when you get angry with someone, that means you still have those thoughts embedded in you and they are still doing damage to yourself and others, whether you can notice that damage or not. When people are put under pressure, what gets squeezed out is whatever is in your subconscious. If you haven't cleared that stuff out, it's going to be horrible HORRIBLE stuff; increasing with the amount of privilege you have. Violence, hatred, prejudice, arrogance, entitlement, etc. It's so important that we don't try to stuff those thoughts and urges down but instead dissect and cast them out. I am not saying ACT on the bullshit that comes out of your subconscious! I'm saying WORK on it. If you have an urge to be violent to someone or call them names or if they become a stereotype to you when you're angry, examine that, deal with it. If you don't feel equipped to handle it yourself, ask a trusted friend or get counseling (if you have access to those things). At the very least, be honest with people who trust you. Don't pretend to be perfect; be willing to accept it when people point out that your imprinting is showing, and take that opportunity to look CAREFULLY at where that is coming from and what lies you might subconsciously be believing. If you have people in your life who are willing to do the (exhausting, unrewarding) labor of pointing out where you need to unlearn things, take that for the gift that it is; don't just use it to hide your prejudice, use it to change your mind. PRACTICE.
This is something I know I need to work on. Being honest about my ignorance (especially when it comes to race and disability) is hard for me. If you notice me doing/saying something that reflects ignorance, privilege, or prejudice in any way, I want to know. I'm not going to take it as you calling me a bad person, I'm going to take it as a possible new pathway to removing imprinted lies. I feel nervous because as far as I can remember, I have learned my problem areas indirectly, and I know it has to have occurred to people that I was showing problematic beliefs, but I haven't been called out on it directly (except to be called "racist against whites" and "sexist against men" which [so far] has always been a problem with understanding how privilege works). I fear that I might seem too dogmatic or something. I hope that people will be frank with me about these things.