Few people openly admit to holding racist beliefs, yet, many psychologists claim that most, within society, are nonetheless unintentional racist as a result of “implicit biases” or prejudice they may harbor, unintentionally. Implicit bias is not only harder to pinpoint, it is more challenging to eradicate than overt inclinations. Simply stated, implicit bias may arguably be, unresolved racism.
Implicit bias is the genuine act of rejecting stereotypes audibly, while at the same time the brain unconsciously holds negative associations or prejudice toward characteristics found in others. These inferences originate from influential surroundings such as parents, peers, communities, and even the media. The truth is, implicit biases are a common problem whereby people link groups to stereotypes, possibly producing discriminatory behavior – even in individuals who are totally against racism.
A recent study suggests that implicit bias is to blame for the unnecessary use of deadly force by law enforcement as they encounter African-Americans and their communities. Yes, according to the study, police are also susceptible to implicit bias.
One of the things the study considered is what they called “threat perception failure.” The officer believed that the person was armed and it turned out not to be the case. Threat perception failures were more likely to occur when the subject was black (even if the officers were themselves black or Latino). Implicit bias may play a role in the use of deadly force against some African-Americans in our country.
Unresolved racism affects a person’s unconscious thinking and decision-making and eventually results in mundane or consequential discriminatory actions. Such behavior can range from poor social interactions with someone of the opposite gender to avoiding a coworker because of their sexual identity. Many times, adults have implicit biases that influence their children. There is no surety that a child will absorb the same prejudices as their parents. However, parents, siblings, extended family, and legal guardians play a significant role in influencing their child’s belief patterns.
The best way to reduce the cycle of implicit biases that leads to destructive behavior in communities is with empowerment and education. To expand the mind with knowledge on social behavior and prejudicial judgments, one must eradicate, or at the very least, effectively manage the development of biased opinions concerning race, sex, and ethnicity, within themselves.
People must be willing to acknowledge the implicit biases within their community and have the patience to learn about others. This type of learning exceeds a person’s skin color or geographical location, cultural practices, religious foundations, and gender identity. Once a foundation for understanding implicit bias is established, unity in diversity can become a possibility.
Being aware that certain biases may be influencing one’s perception is the first step in dealing with a prejudicial predisposition. Being different is not the issue. Instead, the problem rests strongly on the internal struggles these differences cause. It is not merely about people having racial animus; rather, it is the understanding that those who may not consider themselves racist may also be operating under these predisposed assumptions.
Implicit bias, therefore, can be described simply as unresolved racism. Despite being unintentional, it, unfortunately has the potential to harness and ensnare entire communities for generations.
Perhaps the first and most important step toward eradicating unrealized or unconscious prejudices begins by simply recognizing that the whole of society is infected with this invisible disposition. Perchance awareness and self reflection might go a long way in revealing individual implicit bias. And then maybe the seeds of such awareness will find opportunity to take root and empower a community or even a society to see what they once could not see. After all, one cannot fix or solve a problem that is unseeable, unnoticeable or implicit.
Written by Brielle R. Buford
Edited by D. Chandler and C. Jackson
The Ohio State University: Understanding Implicit Bias
Open Society Foundations: Implicit Bias and Social Justice
NPR: Bias Isn’t Just A Police Problem, It’s A Preschool Problem
Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Chris Lott’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License