Biased | Reflections & Notes

Jennifer Eberhardt, Ph.D. Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do. Viking, 2019. (340 pages)

A journey is called that because you cannot know what you will…do with what you find, or what you find will do to you. – James Baldwin

REFLECTIONS

My favorite authors are the ones that help explicate the deeper structures of our existence and then leverage that understanding for better outcomes in this world. Eberhardt’s book Biased is now at the top of that list. This is truly a phenomenal book because it not only untangles the complicated understandings of bias and stereotypes, but it delivers on the subtitle’s promise, bringing to light the hidden prejudice that shapes (and I would add “everything”) we see, think, and do. Eberhardt’s dedicated research, personal stories, and historical recountings make this an amazingly robust and thorough treatment of human psychology, as well as a brilliant alternative to other ways of fighting racism and discrimination. Decrying and protesting systemic racism and discriminatory prejudice is important work, but easy to do. Explaining it to dismantle it is much harder, requires more thoughtfulness, but is ultimately more effective. Accomplishing that task requires someone with an extremely high caliber of academic rigor and emotional discipline. Eberhardt has both in heaps.

Deeply scientific, profoundly human, prophetically exhortative, and accessibly articulate, this may be one of the most important books published in recent memory. Eberhardt not only gives us a “way in” to a deeper understanding of the “machinery” underneath our cognitive “hoods,” but she also provides a “way through” the morass of our human depravity. Read this book now!


NOTES

Introduction

This book is an examination of implicit bias–what it is, where it comes from, how it affects us, and how we can address it. Implicit bias is not a new way of calling someone a racist. In fact, you don’t have to be a racist at all to be influenced by it. Implicit bias is a kind of distorting lens that’s a product of both the architecture of our brain and the disparities in our society. (6)

Our ideas about race are shaped by the stereo-types to which we are exposed on a daily basis. And one of the strongest stereotypes in American society associates blacks with criminality. (6)

Confronting implicit bias requires us to look in the mirror. To understand the influence of implicit racial bias requires us to stare into our own eyes–much as the undercover police officer who found that he had been tailing himself had done–to face how readily stereotypes and unconscious associations can shape our reality. By acknowledging the distorting lens of fear and bias, we move one step closer to clearly seeing each other. And we move one step closer to clearly seeing the social harms–the devastation–that bias can leave in its wake. (7)

| Neither our evolutionary path nor our present culture dooms us to be held hostage by bias. (7)

Part I

What Meets the Eye

Chapter 1: Seeing Each Other

THE SCIENCE OF RECOGNITION

For nearly fifty years, scientists have been documenting the fact that people are much better at recognizing faces of their own race than faces of other races–a finding dubbed the “other-race effect.” (13)

By the time babies are three months old, their brains react more strongly to faces of their own race than to faces of people unlike them. That race-selective response only grows stronger as children move into adolescence, which suggests it is driven, in part, by the circumstances of our lives. (14)

That cringe-worthy expression “They all look alike” has long been considered the province of the bigot. But it is actually a function of biology and exposure. Our brains are better at processing faces that evoke a sense of familiarity. (14)

Race is not a pure dividing line. Children who are adopted by parents of a different race do not exhibit the classic other-race effect. (14)

Age and familiarity with various age-groups can also be factors. (14)

IMAGING RACE

How does race shape who we are and how we experience the world? (15)

Because our experiences in the world are reflected in our brains, might our expertise in recognizing faces of our own race–and failing to recognize those of others–display its own neurobiological signature as well? (17)

The act of perceiving faces…is distributed across multiple areas of the occipitotemporal region,… The superior temporal sulcus–a trench-like structure in the temporal lobe that’s vital to social competence–helps us to read the many different expressions that can suddenly emerge on someone’s face, signaling us to approach, to smile, to share, to flee, or to quickly arm ourselves. A region known as the fusiform face area, buried deep near the base of the brain, helps us distinguish the familiar from the unfamiliar, friend from foe. (17)

Race, as it turns out, could exert influence over one of the brain’s most basic functions. The FFA, with its bright colors on our imaging scans, provided us with a clear picture of how in- and out-group distinctions–set in motion by our relationship to the world around us–are mapped onto the inner workings of our brains.

THE PURSE SNATCHERS

Research and real-life experience have shown that the chance of false alarms–of identifying someone as the culprit who is not–goes way up when the suspect is of a different race from the victim. That’s the practical fall-out of the other-race effect. (20)

[via: This puts the entire “line-up” practice into dubious and delinquent territory.]

Chapter 2: Nurturing Bias

Categorization–grouping like things together–is not some abhorrent feature of the human brain, a process that some people engage in and (23) others do not. Rather, it is a universal function of the brain that allows us to organize and manage the overload of stimuli that constantly bombard us. It’s a system that brings coherence to a chaotic world; it helps our brains make judgments more quickly and efficiently by instinctively relying on patterns that seem predictable. (24)

| But categorization also can impede our efforts to embrace and understand people who are deemed not like us, by tuning us to the faces of people who look like us and dampening our sensitivity to those who don’t. (24)

This weakened response to repeated exposure is known by neuroscientists as repetition suppression. (26)

…once faces are categorized as out-group members, they are not processed as deeply or attended to as carefully. We reserve our precious cognitive resources for those who are “like us.” (26)

Our findings show that what we perceive is influenced not only by the labels we are provided but by our own attitudes about the rigidity of categories. Although we tend to think (28) about seeing as objective and straightforward, how and what we see can be heavily shaped by our own mind-set. (29)

| In fact, the swirl of social judgments that flow from categorization is so strong it affects not only how we see others but how we perceive ourselves. (29)

THE MECHANICS OF BIAS

The categories we have about social groups work in a similar way. But in this instance, we label the beliefs we have about social groups “stereotypes” and the attitudes we have about them “prejudice.” Whether bad or good, whether justified or unjustified, our beliefs and attitudes can become so strongly associated with the category that they are automatically triggered, affecting our behavior and decision making. (31)

The process of making these connections is called bias. It can happen unintentionally. It can happen unconsciously. It can happen effortlessly. And it can happen in a matter of milliseconds. (32)

For the most part we do not first see, and then define, we define first and then see. – Walter Lippmann, Public Opinion

There is economy in [steretyping]. For the attempt to see all things freshly and in detail, rather than as types and generalities, is exhausting. … We are not equipped to deal with so much subtlety. … [W]e have to reconstruct it on a simpler model before we can manage with it. – Walter Lippmann, Public Opinion

Without our permission or even awareness, stereotypes come to guide what we see, and in so doing seem to validate themselves. That makes them stronger, more pervasive, and resistant to change. (35)

| The “fictions and symbols” they represent are the thought paths that lead to expressions of implicit bias. (35)

I THINK IT’S FEAR

THE TRANSMISSION OF BIAS

Upon watching just one thirty-(38)second clip of a negative interaction, preschoolers have seen enough to hold the target of bias responsible rather than the holder of bias. (39)

…biased parents tend to produce children who are biased as well. (39)

The more negative the nonverbal actions directed at the unseen black characters, the more antiblack bias the study participants revealed on an implicit association test following the showing. That is, there was evidence for a type of “bias contagion.” (42)

How do we know when we are being insensitive or unfair? How much of who we are and how we feel is dictated by things outside our awareness or control? How often are we really the tolerant, fair-minded person we want to be? And how can we learn to check ourselves and mute the negative impact that bias can have? (43)

Part II

Where We Find Ourselves

Chapter 3: A Bad Dude

Bias, even when we are not conscious of it, has consequences that we need to understand and mitigate. The stereotypic associations we carry in our heads can affect what we perceive, how we think, and the actions we take. (48)

I dreaded watching another police-shooting video. The steady stream of tragic scenes led me to question the value of what I was doing. I’ve tried to sustain myself through years of research, trainings, and community meetings by believing that change is possible. But each new incident offers damning evidence of just how entrenched the problems are. It’s painful, it’s discouraging, it’s a reality I’d rather avoid. But it’s also a reminder of why I can’t let up. (49)

…I worked (and I still worry) that people put too much faith in the power of these trainings, which can educate but not eradicate the forces that keep officers primed for trouble and communities on edge. (50)

DINNER WITH TIFFANY

THE SCIENTIFIC LENS

Act 1: A Visible Man

The increased visual attention to black faces that the “crime prime” generates is reminiscent of the phenomenon of “high visibility,” a theme in Ralph Ellison’s 1950s American classic, Invisible Man. Ellison described the black American predicament as one where black people are visually registered only with the aid of cultural stereotypes that function to distort their image. These stereotypes lead blacks to be the subject of gaze, then block them from being fully seen. It’s a paradox of peril. High visibility is accompanied by invisibility. Applying science to Ellison’s observations, we’ve shown that black faces are much more likely to capture the attentional systems of those who have been induced to think about crime than of those who have not. It is as if the existing stereotypic association between blacks and crime renders these faces more perpetually relevant and therefore worthy of being seen. (60)

Act 2: Larger Than Life

The researchers also examined whether this racial bias was related to the capacity to do harm. Here, the study participants’ race mattered. White participants rated black men as more capable of doing harm than white men of the same physical stature and size. Black participants exhibited no such bias. (61)

Act 3: Race in Motion

If people perceive black bodies as more threatening than white bodies, might they perceive black body movements as more threatening than the identical movements made by whites? Research suggests that they do. (62)

[Birt] Duncan found that the students used a much lower threshold for labeling black actions as violent. (62)

We examined data from 2010 and 2011, during the height of the NYPD “stop, question, and frisk” crime-fighting campaign. In those two years, officers made nearly 1.3 million pedestrian stops. We found that half o those were based on “furtive movement.” (63)

Yet blacks were less likely to have a weapon than whites. In fact, less than 1 percent of those stopped for furtive movement were found to have a weapon. So a practice initiated to take guns off the streets turned into a dragnet that swept up hundreds of (63) thousands of black men whose most common offense was moving suspiciously. (64)

Act 4: Unarmed but Dangerous

This raises yet another set of questions. Typically, we think of stereotypes as influencing how we see people. Could stereotypes also influence how we see objects? (65)

Those who had been exposed to black faces needed fewer frames–they needed less clarity–to detect the crime objects than those who had not been exposed to faces. And those who had been exposed to the white faces needed significantly more frames–they needed more clarity–before they could recognize the crime objects. (66)

Stereotypes can determine which objects we see in the world and which we don’t. (66)

Act 5: Shoot–Don’t Shoot

These results are illuminating not just because they provide us with a way to combat bias. They also demonstrate that sometimes the way to curb bias is not by attempting to quickly rid people of a racial association that they have practiced throughout their lives but by simply training them to do their jobs better–such that the skills they develop through goal-driven, repetitive practice can override the effects of bias on their actions. (68)

SAYING GOOD-BYE

When the person killed was black and unarmed, researchers found that black respondents reported feeling more depressed and stressed up to three months after the incident occurred. (70)

Chapter 4: Male Black

To understand police-community relations, we need to consider not only basic facts about how our minds are designed to work, but our history and our culture as well. (74)

cf. “the Riders”

THE POLICE RESPONSE

“MALE BLACK.” “MALE BLACK.” “MALE BLACK.” “MALE BLACK.” This is what officers in Oakland hear, booming from their police radios, hundreds of times every day. It’s the inescapable background track to the chaos of crime-saturated streets. On a typical day, an officer on patrol might hear that dispatched description three hundred ties–or twelve hundred times a week, fifty thousand times a year. (80)

| I can only imagine the impact of that constant refrain over time. … That repetitive pairing can easily lead to an association of blackness with crime that becomes automatic, expected, routine. (80)

It is what sociologist Everett Hughes (80) back in the 1940s, called a “master status”; the primary way in which one is seen. It elevates that aspect of the self above all others. (81)

It’s implausible to believe that officers–or anyone else–can be immersed in an environment that repetitively exposes them to the categorical pairing of blacks with crime and not have that affect how they think, feel, or behave. (81)

PROCEDURAL JUSTICE

Decades of research have shown that across a variety of professions people care as much about how they are treated during the (83) course of an interaction as the outcome of that interaction. In the policing context, this suggests that people stopped by police care as much about how police officers treat them as they do about whether they got a ticket. In fact, both research and real-life experience have shown that if officers act in accordance with four tenets–voice, fairness, respect, trustworthiness–residents will be more inclined to think of the police as legitimate authorities and therefore be more likely to comply with the law. (84)

…one of the primary barriers to good policing is the cynicism that officers develop while working the streets. (84)

| It’s easy for officers to get beaten down by fighting crime. Over time, they come to feel as if they were just foot soldiers in an unwinnable war. They become bitter about putting their lives on the line for people who do not seem to respect them or appreciate their efforts. They become frustrated about attempting to protect victims who later become perpetrators, or trying to solve crimes when witnesses refuse to talk. They become jaded as they bear witness to horrific acts of violence. They get worn down by living in a constant state of hypervigilance, not knowing where the next threat will emerge. And that leads to a vicious cycle that can sabotage communication and escalate even the slightest provocation. (84)

| As that cynicism grows, it also narrows their vision. (85)

AN IMPERFECT SHIELD

INNOCENCE IN THE PARK

Chapter 5: How Free People Think

cf. Investigation of the Ferguson Police Department

…see some residents, especially those who live in Ferguson’s predominantly African American neighborhoods, less as constituents to be protected than a potential offenders and sources of revenue.

…”respect deficit” [officers were significantly more respectful to white drivers than they were to black drivers.] …[And] The (104) drivers’ race trumped the officers’ race. (105)

NOT QUITE FREE

94 parent of cases involving criminal charges never go to trial; they are settled when the defendant agrees to plead guilty in exchange for leniency in sentencing. (109)

THE AFTERMATH

STILL NOT QUITE FREE

THE INCARCERATED

cf. The Prison University Project … To date, 162 prisoners have amassed enough credits to earn their associate of arts degrees. (116)

The blacker the prisons, the more punitive the public was willing to be. (119)

Suddenly I felt like a (121) subject of my own studies. (122)

It took me a while to recognize that I’d underestimated them in ways that reflected my own one-dimensional thinking about men who were, in real life, more than their prison sentences. (123)

| Their interests, it turned out, were not much different from those of the college students I taught at Stanford. They wanted to understand the basic principles of psychology–the value of self, the role of culture, the need to belong, the fundamental desire for affiliation. (123)

I just can’t even believe it. Somebody sat down and spent all this time on my paper, thinking of what would make it better and how I can improve. That’s never happened to me before. – [an inmate/student for one of Eberhardt’s courses]

THE DEATHWORTHY

David Baldus found not only that those who killed whites were more likely to be sentenced to death than those convicted of murdering blacks, but also that black defendants were more likely to receive a death sentence than white defendants. (128)

It’s not just group membership that influences perceptions; it’s whether an individual’s physical appearance triggers the sort of pernicious stereotypes that suggest that blacks are inherently so dangerous they deserve extermination. That’s a sign that our perspectives, our criminal justice process, and our institutions are still influenced by primitive racial narratives and imagery. (130)

Chapter 6: The Scary Monster

THE SCIENCE OF THE SCARY MONSTER

cf. An Account of the Regular Gradation in Man, Charles White, 1799

cf. Samuel George Morton

polygenism–separate biological beginnings for each racial group… (136)

cf. Types of Mankind, by Josiah Nott and George Gliddon, 1854

cf. Louis Agassiz

It was in Philadelphia that I first found myself in prolonged contact with negroes; all the domestics in my hotel were men of color. I can scarcely express to you the painful impression that I received, especially since the feeling that they inspired in me is contrary to all our ideas about the confraternity of the human type and the unique origin of our species. But truth before all. Nevertheless, I experienced pity at the sight of this degraded and degenerate race, and their lot inspired compassion in me in thinking that they are really men. Nonetheless, it is impossible for me to reprocess the feeling that they are not of the same blood as us. In seeing their black faces with their thick lips and grimacing teeth, the wool on their head, their bent knees, their elongated hands, their large curved nails, and especially the livid color of the palm of their hands, I could not take my eyes off their face in order to tell them to stay far away. And when they advanced that hideous hand towards my plate in order to serve me, I wished I were able to depart in order to eat a piece of bread elsewhere, rather than dine with such service. What unhappiness for the white race—to have tied their existence so closely with that of negroes in certain countries! God preserve us from such a contact! – Louis Agassiz, 1846

Here the Negro skull has been exaggerated by Nott and Gliddon to suggest its greater similarity t the chimpanzee than to the Greek god Apollo.

It was frightening to view what the late Stanford historian George Frederickson had called “the black image in the white mind.” I couldn’t shake the sense that these loathsome images were still a part of our racial iconography, restricting the entry of blacks into the circle of humanity. (140)

cf. Paul Broca

A prognathus [forward jutting] face, more or less black color of the skin, wooly hair and intellectual and social inferiority are often associated, while more or less white skin, straight hair and an orthognathous [straight] face are the ordinary equipment of the highest groups in the human series. … A group with black skin, wooly hair and a prognathous face has never been able to raise itself spontaneously to civilization. – Paul Broca

But Broca’s belief in polygenism could not outlast Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. In On the Origin of Species, Darwin laid out an irrefutable argument for monogenism: different human races are all of one species. Darwin went on to local the cradle of humanity in Africa (not Europe, as was commonly assumed0 and to claim that we are not fixed but an evolving species responding to the demands of our physical environment. (141)

| Although Darwin’s discoveries revolutionized science, the belief in black inferiority stood firm. Forced to view all races as members of the same species, scientists and public intellectuals could no longer consider blacks a lowly derivative of those white people whom God created first and in his likeness. Instead, whites became the latest, most (141) complex, most intelligent, most evolved humans in this great chain of advancement. Darwin’s radical ideas were quickly accommodated to a racial narrative about blacks that refused to die. And that is precisely what made that monstrous bias so scary to me: it never seemed to die. (142)

After crude measurements of skull size fell out of favor as a way to certify intellectual inferiority, psychologists brought a new tool to the table–the intelligence quotient test. In the early years of the twentieth century, the IQ test became an instrument that institutionalized bias as it was widely applied to a range of disfavored groups. (142)

[Howard A. Knox] called it “our mental measuring scale.” But it was also a symbol of the sweeping influence of the eugenics movement, which aimed to weed out newcomers from countries that might pollute the American gene pool. (142)

THE NEW SCIENCE OF DEHUMNIZATION

Attention creates no idea; an idea must already be there before we can attend to it. Attention only fixes and retains what the ordinary laws of association bring “before the footlights” of consciousness. – William James

The idea, even unacknowledged, that blacks are associated with apes leads us to focus our attention on black faces that, under ordinary circumstances, would remain in the shadows. That focused attention then serves to strengthen the association already in our heads. We see the world that we come prepared to see, even though those preparations are taking place unconsciously. (144)

In our twist on the [invisible gorilla] experiment, we gave participants a list of names to sort through before they watched the video. Half the group was given stereotypically white names: bread, Fans, Heather, Katie. The (144) other group got stereotypically black names: Jamal, Tyrone, Nichelle, Shaniqua. When they watched the video, the group given the black names was much more likely to notice the gorilla. Simply bringing to mind African Americans, via the stereotypically black names, increased the chance that study participants would see the gorilla from 45 percent to 70 percent. (145)

An investigation of the Los Angeles Police Department in the wake of the 1991 beating of Rodney King made public transcripts of LAPD officers’ patrol-car computer chats, which likened blacks to jungle animals and mimicked stereotypical black dialect. (145)

| “Sounds like monkey slapping time,” one message read. Another, from an officer who was ultimately convicted of beating King, described a domestic violence call involving a black family as “right out of Gorillas in the Mist.” Officers had even coined a shorthand code for incidents involving black people: NHI. No humans involved. (145)

| That kind of animal imagery is troubling, not only because of what it suggests about police attitudes and behavior, but because it can shape how the public evaluates the choices officers make. (145)

We find no evidence for a black-squirrel association or a black-alligator association, even though squirrels and alligators are both dark. We only find evidence of a black-ape association. And we get the same results when we use line drawings of apes in our studies rather than dark photographs, so a strict color-matching hypothesis is not supported. In fact, we get the same results when we use words associated with apes rather than pictures. We get the same results when we use stereotypically (147) black names instead of stereotypically black faces. And, by the way, we find no evidence for a South Asian-ape association, even though many South Asians have very dark skin. (148)

There is something destabilizing about having to accept that your tribe is seen as a permanent outlier in your country’s collective consciousness. That, still, your dark skin is seen as a stain that no measure of progress can cleanly erase. And that many of my own colleagues–the tribe of my profession–harbored those same associations. (148)

Part III

The Way Out

Chapter 7: The Comfort of Home

SEGREGATED SPACE

Our research has shown how collective stereotypes shape individual housing choices, even when we think our actions are race neutral. Negative perceptions tied to race and physical space encourage social distance in ways that reinforce segregation and keep us from getting to know one another. (160)

Stereotypic images of black spaces, buttressed by historical and current-day racial inequalities, led our study participants to imagine black space as polluted. And that image led them to be less protective of the space and more inclined to compound existing environmental threats. (162)

POLLUTED PEOPLE

ABSORBING SPACE

Part of the stigma of black skin has to do with cultural associations that mark white as a sign of purity and black as something else en-(166)tirely. Indeed, research shows that people quickly and effortlessly associate the color black with immorality. (167)

In many ways, this is how bias operates. It conditions how we look at the world and the people within it, despite our conscious motivations and desires, and even when such conditioning can put us in harm’s way. Just as drivers are conditioned by how the roads are constructed in their native land, so too are we conditioned by racial narratives that narrow our vision and bias how we see the people around us. (170)

MIGRATING

…what made the South so difficult for blacks was more than the constant reminders of second-class citizenship: the separate drinking fountains, schools, restaurants, restrooms, and areas for waiting, sitting, standing, and healing. It was the ever-present threat of violence, without protection or redress. Segregation was the rule, and the police, widely considered an extension of the Ku Klux Klan, were the enforcers.  (174)

FIGHTING BIAS IN NEW PLACES

Surveillance cameras have gone mainstream, guarding our front doors. Online social networks connect us to our neighbors. But the same tools that promise security and promote camaraderie can foster a sort of tunnel vision that distorts our sense of danger, heightens suspicion, and even puts the safety of others at risk. (180)

We are building more advanced systems to screen some people out and welcome others in, but who gets put in which category? … And while (180) we expect technology to make us less fearful, it also encourages us to act more quickly on the fears–acknowledged or not–that we harbor. Sometimes its mere existence seems to prime us to confront the bogeyman we think we need protection from. (181)

Research supports the notion that raising the issue of race and discrimination explicitly can lead people to be more open-minded and act more fairly, particularly when they have time to reflect on their choices. (185)

| The posting process was changed to require users to home in on behavior, pushing them past the “If you see something, say something” mind-set and forcing them to think more critically: if you see something suspicious, say something specific. (185)

Research shows that talking about racial issues with people of other races is particularly stressful for whites, who may feel they have to work harder to sidestep the minefields. Their physical signs of distress are measurable: Heart rates go up, blood vessels constrict, their bodies respond as if they were preparing for a threat. They demonstrate signs of cognitive depletion, struggling with simple things like word-recognition tasks. (186)

Ultimately we see our neighborhoods as an extension of our homes. And home is the place where you let your guard down; where you expect to feel loved, safe, and comfortable. But living with diversity means getting comfortable with people who might not always think like you, people who don’t have the same experience or perspectives. That process can be challenging. But it might also be an opportunity to expand your horizons and examine your own buried bias. (188)

…decades of research on stereotyping highlight the power of individuating information to mitigate bias. (193)

Chapter 8: Hard Lessons

…social psychologist Gordon Allport outlined in his 1954 classic, The Nature of Prejudice, contact has a much greater chance of piercing bias when the interactions meet a long list of conditions, including that the contact is between people of equal status, is condoned by authorities, and is personal rather than superficial. (199)

It took Allport’s “contact hypothesis” to point out the pitfalls of a simplistic approach. Spending time with groups you’re determined to dislike can actually translate in a biased mind to validation: I thought these people were stupid; now I know they are. Allport found that contact can exacerbate instead of ameliorate conflict, especially if the contact situations involve competition or create anxiety for those who take part. The encounters need to be long and frequent enough that the groups involved are comfortable with one another and feel they have common goals or bonds. That’s what helps dissolve the separation created by out-group distinctions. (200)

When we’re faced with a common enemy, research has shown, our biases can temporarily dissolve by the urge to band together and survive. Even the harshest of group boundaries can be realigned when we are under threat. (202)

WALKING TOGETHER

…treating everyone the same when they’re differently situated is not always as fair as you might think. (208)

EMERGING DISPARITIES

A team of academics, led by social psychologist Geoffrey Cohen, tested the impact of a “values affirmation” intervention. Beginning in seventh grade, students in two groups regularly wrote structured journal entries–one wrote about values important to them, such as relationships with family and friends or musical interests, and the other wrote about “neutral” subjects, such as their morning routines. The researchers found that the African American students who wrote values-oriented entires earned significantly higher grades than those who did not. (211)

The research confirms the connection between psychological states and the process of learning–particularly for black students, who display greater psychological vulnerability to early academic failure. (212)

Before they even enter kindergarten, black children are already considered more likely to misbehave than white children. [The Yale Child Study Center] (215)

Decreasing racial disparities in discipline will require both teachers and students to focus on the relationships they have with each other. It will involve reminding them of what their goals are and showing them paths to achieve those goals. It will also mean drawing their attention to the kinds of relationships they would like to have with one another, rather than bringing into focus the relationships they fear. (216)

…an empathetic look at what drives misbehavior could lead to a better result for both students and teachers. (217)

SIDESTEPPING RACE

Our brains, our culture, our instincts, all lead us to use color as a sorting tool. And yet the color-blind message is so esteemed in American society that even our children pick up the idea that noticing skin color is rude. By the age of ten, children tend to refrain from discussing race, even in situations where mentioning race would be useful, like trying to describe the only black person in a group. (217)

In fact, the color-blind approach has consequences that can actually impede our move toward equality. When people focus on not seeing color, they may also fail to see discrimination. (218)

Encouraging children to remain blind to race dampened their detection of dis-(218)crimination, which had ripple effects. Color blindness promoted exactly the opposite of what was intended: racial inequality. It left minority children to fend for themselves in an environment where the harms they endured could not be seen. (219)

* * *

Journalist Walter Lippmann, who coined the term “stereotypes,” said it best: without individual contact that breaks through our categorization, “we notice a trait which marks a well known type, and fill in the rest of the picture by means of the stereotypes we carry about in our heads.” (219)

History, Lippman said, is the “antiseptic” that can disinfect the (219) stain of stereotypes by allowing us “to realize more and more clearly when our ideas started, where they started, how they came to us, why we accepted them.” (220)

There’s a tendency for textbooks and teachers to shrink or sanitize a subject that stains our nation’s legacy. That shields students from the true horror of the institution. But it also deprives them of the opportunity to explore both the brutality of oppression and the bravery of endurance, and to understand how the legacy of slavery still shapes our country’s racial dynamic, influencing us in ways we don’t even recognize. (221)

BERNICE’S RISE AND RETURN

cf. Bernice Donald

Both the biased and the target of bias are forced to dwell in the roles they play. (225)

And so are we. (225)

Chapter 9: Higher Learning

“Bigotry is still in my veins.” (230)

The changing status of whites in America is tinder for the fire of white nationalism. When whites are the mainstream and everyone else the “others,” things feel safe and comfortable for men like my driver. (231)

| But by the middle of this century, white people are likely to be a minority in this country, according to U.S. Census Bureau projections. And simply reminding some white Americans of their diminishing presence can lead them to express more negative attitudes toward blacks, Latinos, and Asians, according to a series of studies by social psychologists Maureen Craig and Jennifer Richeson. (231)

Feeling outnumbered can signal a threat to the legacy of dominance and the white privilege that affords. That can seed fear and resentment, which can fuel desperate measures to reclaim primacy. Being reminded of an “increasingly diverse racial landscape” leads some whites to express a stronger preference to interact exclusively with members of their own racial group, to feel that discrimination against whites is on the rise, and to endorse more politically conservative views and policies. (231)

SHOWING UP

Research shows that people tend to grossly overestimate the extent to which they will speak out against prejudice, particularly when they are not the target of the offense. (239)

Under normal circumstances, for many white parents, the instinct is to show your child that race doesn’t matter by not talking about it. Being color-blind is what it means to be a good parent; it’s a sign of tolerance and a panoply of all the right virtues. But for most black parents, the instinct is to do the opposite: help children to understand how race does matter and show them how to move among people who might be biased. These are the conversations that protect them and prepare them for the world. Indeed, research shows that black parents talk to their children about race much earlier and more often than white parents. (245)

THE AFTERMATH

The mistake we keep making–the mistake we all keep making–is in thinking that our work is done. That whatever heroic effort we’ve made will keep moving us forward. That whatever progress we’ve seen will keep us from sliding back to burning crosses and hiding Torah scrolls. (250)

| But this moment in Charlottesville is our lot, our inheritance. This is where our history and our brain machinery strand us–time and time again. Moving forward requires continued vigilance. It requires us to constantly attend to who we are, how we got that way, and all the selves we have the capacity to be. (250)

But you can condemn what people say without condemning their legal right to say it. That’s intrinsic to the success of many history-making campus movements. (252)

* * *

As a country, even as we have attempted to move steadily toward Jefferson’s egalitarain ideal sand away from his notion of white supremacy, bias has sought refuge inside us. In Charlottesville, it ripped through the pact we’ve made to pretend that blatant bigotry is a relic of the past. In truth, bias has been biding its time in an implicit (259) world–in a place where we need not acknowledge it to ourselves or to others, even as it touches our soul and drives our behavior. (260)

Chapter 10: The Bottom Line

…research has made clear that racial bias is also a factor that influences the choices emploiyers make and how minorities fare in the job search and in the workplace. (263)

Employment discrimination against nonwhites has been shown in Australia, Europe, and across North America. In Canada, researchers using similar methodology found strong evidence of bias toward applicants with foreign experience or those with Chinese, Indian, Pakistani, and Greek names. In Australia, résumés with Middle Eastern and East Indian names were most likely to be ignored. (264)

cf. Whitening the Résumé. (266)

“assimilative technique.” You restrict informationa bout the aspects of your identity that are most likely to (267) become a basis for discrimination. (268)

It just goes to show…that to get ahead, some parts of our race need to be only talked about at certain times. Some parts of my racial identity need to be squashed or held back.

Companies want to check the boxes but not change their culture. So young people are desperately tailoring themselves to fit in to those boxes. And I’m left wondering what will happen to those selves they jettison in the process. (269)

| That kind of mild subterfuge makes the role of implicit bias even more complicated in the hiring and management sphere. The employers with hiring power are probably not bigots, trashing black résumés and crossing off Asian names. But they are part of a process that is skewed toward prioritizing a comfortable fit and away from (269) valuing differences. They are practicing in-group favoritism rather than out-group derogation. And that’s the sort of mind-set that allows bias to flourish, under the radar and unchecked. (270)

* * *

It raises provocative questions that reach beyond the concert hall and move us to consider the interplay among stereotypes, performance, and basic sensory functioning. How you are seen may affect how you are heard. (274)

| Given the pervasive and persistent stereotypes about the performance of women, might the concerto actually sound different to the audition judge’s ear when he knows that the instrument is being played by a woman? To what extent might the audience in the symphny hall experience a concert solo by a female musician as less sharp, less skillful, less resonant, less emotionally moving? And to (274) what extend might that woman actually perform differently when she knows that her identity attaches to every note she hits? (275)

| Those are the sorts of questions that animate the study of bias and the complicated relationship between the subconscious messages our minds emit and the way our brains register subjective experience. how we perceive a talent or a trait can depend on who carries it. (275)

THE TRAINING IMPULSE

Social scientists fret so much about the purity and precision of science that we rarely throw ourselves into the messy problems of the world. From my perspective, engaging in the world, tackling thorny problems, can open the way to scientific discoery. If we don’t know enough as scientists to shed light on a problem, sometimes it is because we simply aren’t close enough to ti. (280)

The vast marjoty of implicit bias trainings stress how pervasive bias is. Bias is presented as a part of normal human functioning. … But th eproblem with narrowly settling for that perspective is that it can lead us to care less abou the danger assocaited with bias, instead of more. (281)

| When something is regarded as a norm, people cease to judge it harshly. They are not only inclined to believe that the norms i just “the way things are”; they are inclined to believe that something normative is “the way things should be.” They feel less agency and less motivation to change. (281)

moral credentialing. (282)

People are more willing to express attitudes that could be prejudiced when their past behavior has established their crednetials as nonprejudiced. – Benoit Monin and Dale Miller

BEYOND TRAINING

In addition to situational influences like time, money, and the prospect of accountability, personal connections can override the power exerted by implicit bias, especially when those relationships involve intimacy, mutual dependence, or working together toward a shared goal. (287)

Research shows that close attachments between people from (287) different groups can puncture holes in stereotypic beliefs and negative attitudes. (288)

* * *

Institutional values, norms, and practices both dictate and reflect the cultural forces that shape society. They can be a resonant force for (289) the sorts of social changes that help derail bias, but it won’t be simple, cheap, or without stumbles and scorn. (290)

It turns out that diversity itself is not a remedy for, though it may be a route to, eliminating bias. but we have to be willing to go (291) through the growing pains that diveristy entails. We’ve learned that diverse groups are more creative and reach better decisions, but they aren’t always the happiest group of people. There are more differences, so there is apt to be more discord. Privilege shifts, roles change, new voices emerge. (292)

| Success requires us to be willing to tolerate that discomfort as we learn to communicate, get to know one another, and make deeper efforts to shift the underlying cultures that lead to bias and exclusion. (292)

| It doesn’t just come down to “Am I a bigot, or am I not? Can I or can I not get trained out of this?” Bias is operating on a kind of cosmic level, connecting factors and conditions that we must individually make an effort to comprehend and control. And it deserves a cosmic response, with everyone on board. (292)

Implicit bias may not be as easy to recognize and fiht, but it can be addressed. As it turns out, believing that it can be addressed is a critical ingredient to progress. (293)

Conclusion

We all have the capacity to make change–within ourselves, in the world, and in our relationship to that world. (300)

So many people among us are probing, researching, searching to do good and to be good in the best way they know how. And there is hope in the sheer act of reflection. This is where the power lies and how the process starts. (302)

 

About VIA

www.kevinneuner.com

One comment

  1. Pingback: Antiracist Baby | Critical Reflections & Notes | vialogue

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: