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“Are the Police Racist?” Thoughts on Implicit Bias

During the first presidential debate, Hillary Clinton’s response to this question brought the concept of implicit bias into the living rooms and minds of 84 million people. It’s about time. As someone who has been teaching people about implicit bias for the last few years, I was pleased.

For those of you who want to ride this wave, and support further understanding of implicit bias with your colleagues, friends and family, here are a few great resources. Please share widely!

Eight Great Resources for Understanding and Doing Something About Implicit Bias

  1. What does a bicycle thief look like?what_does_a_bike_thief_look_like
    We all have implicit biases that do not necessarily align with our conscious beliefs.
    Watch this video and consider how many of the people in it are likely to acknowledge that their interventions were based on the race or gender of the “bicycle thief.
  2. Kids don’t see color; they just see people.
    womensnsubconsciousImplicit biases build on the biases and stereotypes prevalent in the larger society, absorbed through exposure to social media, mass media, and other images and messages. As this video illustrates, kids are categorizing their peers by race at much younger ages than we might think.
  3. Do Black people really feel pain as much as white people?
    Our implicit biases inform our behavior more than we know. The cumulative effect of individual implicit bias reinforces and perpetuates societal prejudices and historical injustices. This research shows the profound impact on medical care received by Black people.
  4. Take an Online Implicit Attitudes Test.
    Implicit biases can be reduced even if not eliminated, with proper attention and time. The first step in reducing these biases is becoming aware that we have them.
  5. America’s most segregated hour: Sunday morning.
    Who are your neighbors? Who do you hang out with socially? Practice religion with? Inter-group contact with those groups about which we hold stereotypes has been found to reduce our implicit biases. 
  6. Can you name a black college professor? A female scientist? Whose pictures are displayed in the classroom, or your city hall? OWM
    Images matter. Replacing stereotypes with counter-stereotype images, even in the background of places we frequent, enables our unconscious minds to retrain associations.
  7. Will your friends or family speak up – respectfully and constructively – if you do or say something racist.
    Accountability can reduce our implicit biases. The expectation that we may be called on to justify our beliefs and actions is a great motivator to change.
  8. The Danger of a Single Story
    Gathering specific information about individuals encourages us to rely less on categories and recognize that race, gender, culture, and other identity factors are just single facets of a person.

For a wealth of information on implicit bias and the research behind it, visit the Kirwan Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity.