Stereotypical thinking leads to conflict between women and men, those of different religions, people of different racial background, and many others. This thinking has resulted in the Black Lives Matter and #MeToo movements recently. A root cause of this thinking is implicit bias. It is rarely discussed, but is the key to diagnosing many of the incidents that deny people life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in our great country. Here is what every person should know to be able to start an informed dialogue.
1. What is implicit Bias?
A. Implicit bias (IB), occasionally called unconscious bias, is an attitude about groups of people unaware to the holder.
2. Does everyone have implicit biases?
A. Yes, every human being has some type of IB in operation.
3. What are some groups in which people have IB?
A. People have IB in regards to different races, gender roles, religions, sexual orientation, age, class, etc.
4. How is IB created?
A. IB is primarily created by socialization and media images portraying stereotypes.
5. Does IB impact behavior?
A. Yes, IB impacts behavior.
6. How does IB impact behavior?
A. IB leads people to show benefits to those they have a positive regard for and the opposite for those they have negative regard for.
7. Does IB impact American society today?
A. Yes, implicit bias is present in every facet of American society: in the classroom, the boardroom, in politics, and in the workplace.
8. Why is understating IB so important?
A. Understanding IB is important because it can has impact on where people are allowed to live, the treatment they receive at school, what jobs they are able to attain, the pay they are able to receive, the laws that are created, the treatment in courtrooms, and the way they are treated by police authorities.
9. Is there a way to detect IB?
A. Yes, there are several ways to detect IB. One way is called an Implied Association Test.
10. Can I find and take one of these tests?
A. Yes, you can find them online hosted by universities like Harvard and UCLA.
11. What is the relationship between implicit bias and stereotypes?
A. Seeing stereotypes in the media may establish IB towards that group. The only way to know is to be tested,
Understanding implicit bias is crucial in understanding the rifts that have cause the loss of rights, property, and even people’s lives. Our activism must be geared toward ensuring that every citizen can enjoy the rights and freedoms that our country provides. We can only do better when we know better.
Watch this video clip to hear me speak about implicit bias when I spoke for the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission in Maryland for their 2018 Black History Month celebration.
The most important fact to recognize is that we all have biases. Some of the areas in which people have bias are racial, gender, sexual orientation, age, religion, and class. Scientists have known this for decades. Unfortunately, the corporate American hasn’t gotten the memo.
Having biases does not make us bad people. It makes us human. However, what we do because of our bias is another matter. This on many occasions, particularly in the workplace, may be a violation of someone’s rights. Workplace conflict may arise, HR complaints, suspensions, terminations, and even legal action may occur from behavior caused by implicit bias. Having a better understanding of implicit bias can help decrease these problems, thus increasing productivity in the workplace.
To understand implicit bias better, the age-old debate of nature versus nurture is helpful. It is not one or the other, it is both at work. From our hunter-gatherer days on the African plains, we have been hard wired with a mechanism to quickly identify our surroundings as either safe or dangerous. It happens in moments. For example, if we were picking fruits and saw a long brown object on the ground, we would have to determine quickly if it were a snake or something harmless like a branch. Most likely, we would not be here without that ability of quick recognition. That is the nature part.
The nurture part of implicit bias is based on the media images that we have been exposed to and socialization. For example, if parents told a child all his/her life that poor people were not to be trusted, then this might be enough to establish an implicit bias. Additionally, if a person sees medial portrayals of women as bad drivers, then that may establish an implicit bias. The problem is that socialization and media images are often wrong. So, people who are socialized differently and are exposed to questionable media images are expected to work in the same place 40 hours a week.
The corporate world has to be courageous and innovative in its professional development. Employees should be asked to take an implicit association test. It is one way to determine if people have implicit biases. They cannot be detected without testing. You can use the one by Harvard University.
There is also a need for managers and leadership to be able to identify the implicit biases that they possess. These biases may decrease the opportunity for raises and promotions for certain staff. If it is able to be proven that an employer systematically and regularly denied raises and promotions to some and granted them to others, legal action may ensue. That is bad for business.
In the service sector, implicit bias may influence the quality of service that certain customers receive. That, in turn, directly impacts the bottom line. The 20-dollar bill of a Latino woman, gay man, and Muslim all look the same. It is up to the progressive company to make sure everyone of their employees understands that fact. Implicit bias training should be on the calendar of every company.