Supporting Race Equity: Check your Own Bias
Now more than ever, Americans are grappling with our own biases. A June, 2020 poll from Monmouth University reported that over three-quarters of the country feels that discrimination is “a big problem” and many are reflecting on times they experienced prejudice, or have been prejudiced against others. However, confronting our preconceptions is not simple or easy. Often, we sort others into automatic categories without even knowing it is due to “implicit bias.” Buried deep in our subconscious, implicit biases are formed over our lifetimes and affect the way you think and act towards different groups without realizing it.
Implicit bias starts early. Several studies have shown that children pick up racially prejudiced ideas as early as age three. These biases can be learned anywhere: listening to their parents discussing politics, interactions on the playground, even from the characters in their favorite books and television shows. Once acquired, these negative attitudes about other groups are difficult to change and can have long lasting effects. Even people consciously committed to equitable treatment of others are not immune. A 2010 study in the American Educational Research Journal showed that a group of elementary school teachers were so subconsciously biased in their expectations and attention to certain children that white children and children of color effectively receive different educations in the same classroom.
Growing evidence suggests that implicit biases are related to discrimination across society, including housing applications, hiring and promotions at work and interactions with law enforcement. So how do we address them?
Acknowledging our own biases is the first step. Harvard University has developed a set of interesting online quizzes to check your own implicit biases surrounding race, sexual orientation and other subjects at Project Implicit Research. If people are aware of their biases, they can pay attention to and modify their behavior and language. Through gradual change, the implicit associations we have formed can be unlearned.