July 9, 2016

Are You Implicitly Biased?

If you've been reading veritable pastiche for a while, you know that I've talked about bias, and racism, even the 'accidental' kind of racism that I have.
  • I've talked about race in the shadow of the Trayvon Martin case, and President Obama's heartfelt comments on the 'not guilty' verdict in favor of George Zimmerman, who has gone on to make absolutely nothing of his life - most recently auctioning off the gun he used to kill Martin. 
  • I've talked about it in the context of Ferguson, and the social media hashtags that come from situations like the Michael Brown case, and the Eric Garner case, and the rest of them. 
  • I've talked about it in the context of Donald Trump forcing Barack Obama to produce his long-form birth certificate, a low point not just for Obama but for the Office of the President itself. 
  • I've talked about it in the context of  Paula Deen and other 'celebrities'.
  • I've talked about it in the context of Donald Trump just being Donald Trump; I see him not as the potential Commander in Chief but as the actual inflamer in chief, and I truly believe he relishes the latter role more than the former. 
And now, in a matter of hours, we have two black men - Alton Sterling and Philando Castile - killed by Louisiana and Minnesota policemen in what can only be described as mind-boggling and horrific circumstances.  And we have the death of five police officers in Dallas, and attacks on officers in other states, in what can also only be described as mind-boggling and horrific.

We mourn the loss of them all - or we should - because neither being a police officer nor being a black man should be a capital crime in our country.

Law enforcement representatives are describing what it's like to be them, and almost without exception, you can replace the word 'officer' with 'black man' and the sentiment is exactly the same: they are not all bad; they just want to come home at night; they want to be safe on the streets; don't paint everyone with the same brush, and so on.

We have people - politicians, friends, family, strangers - trying to find a brush narrow enough to paint the picture that we have in our country, because either 'side' (a poor way to describe it, but I don't really have a better one) using any broad brush will further incite and inflame the other.

And so, it was in that context that I took a ten-minute test this morning to see if  I am biased based not on whether or I think I am, but based on a series of exercises that are designed to identify implicit reactions to black and white, good and bad.

The test showed that I have "little to no automatic preference between European Americans and African Americans" which surprised me a little, based on the self-exploration I've shared with you. To be clear, the 'debrief' that comes with the results notes that
How implicit associations affect our judgment is not well understood and may be influenced by a number of variables. As such, the score should serve as an opportunity for self-reflection, not as a definitive assessment of your implicit thoughts. 
I encourage you to take this test and reflect on your own results. Share it with friends and family and encourage them to do the same.

Share your results on social media, just as you would share your results of your viking name, or the flower or animal that most represents your spirit, or a bacon recipe.

Share it with your church congregation, your scout troop, your volunteer board, your elected representatives, and so on.

Why? Because if we all start with a little self-reflection, just maybe we can progress towards communal reflection, and from there maybe we can at least agree that something needs to change, and start working on solutions.