Mahzarin Banaji, a Harvard professor and professional not-racist, developed a test that determined whether or not a person has racist biases with two colleagues. When she took the test herself, it told her she was biased.Her first thought was, “Something's wrong with this test."
"I've spent a lot of my life thinking about these issues. I am, myself, an immigrant. I was aware of the history of black-white relations; I had strived in my own life to practice what I believe. And among my peers, I have the reputation of someone who understands these issues and cares about them. I should certainly not have trouble."
Here's how the test works.
First you'll match good things and bad things.
Then you match people with race.
Then it gets combined.
You'll see faces and words and match them. "European American" and "Good" is on one side and "African American" and "Bad" on the other side.
Then it gets switched.
You'll see faces and words again, but this time "European American" and "Bad" share a side while "African American" and "Good" share a side.
If you do both tasks at the same speed, then congrats!
But if there is big difference in the speed, it means you have a hard time associating a race with an attribute opposite of your unconscious beliefs.
But why do we need a test? We all know what racism looks like.
It offends us. We don't want to be associated with it in any way. When we see or hear it from the people foremost in our society, we are quick to denounce it and demand change.
These celebrities were swiftly, severely, and publicly shamed for making EXPLICITLY racist statements.
We don't need a test to tell us when something is explicitly racist. It's obvious on its face. But explicit bias isn't the only kind of bias out there making the world a more bummery place to be.
We need a test because implicit bias is different. It's insidious and hard to spot.
Here's how Ohio State University's Kirwan School for the Study of Race and Ethnicity defines implicit bias.
"Also known as implicit social cognition, implicit bias refers to the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner.
These biases, which encompass both favorable and unfavorable assessments, are activated involuntarily and without an individual's awareness or intentional control.
Residing deep in the subconscious, these biases are different from known biases that individuals may choose to conceal for the purposes of social and/or political correctness.
Rather, implicit biases are not accessible through introspection."
It doesn't show itself in glaringly discriminatory words and deeds. It shows itself in tiny behavioral patterns that are hard to spot until you examine society as a whole.
It's not that women are just worse at running companies or that black men should be punished harder. Some other force is at work.
If you show a bias, don't take it personally. Almost everyone does. (I did too!) Take it as a moment to celebrate because now you know more about yourself than you did before.