My parents emphasized tolerance when I was growing up. They condemned prejudice and taught me to treat people of different races and backgrounds the same as I would want to be treated.
I’ve tried to carry that attitude into my adult life and consider myself liberal in my political beliefs. So it was eye-opening to take Project Implicit’s test of hidden bias recently and find an unconscious preference for white people over black people buried in my mind.
I’m not alone. The test has found similar results in people across the country, including 16 of us in The Sun’s newsroom who recently took the test. The test found members of the newsroom have slightly less implicit bias than has been found on average, but most of us have some level of unconscious preference for one race over the other.
As part of The Sun-sponsored Gainesville For All initiative, we’re now asking other community members to take the test. It takes less than 10 minutes and must be done on a desktop or laptop computer. Visit http://bit.ly/implicittesting to do so.
Other residents of a left-leaning college town like Gainesville might think like I did, that they aren’t racist so they must not have unconscious biases either. It might help to think of the issue in the way it was explained recently on the National Public Radio show Invisibilia: Even well-intentioned people have implicit bias.
The show, which can be heard at http://bit.ly/nprimplicitbias, gave some good examples of how implicit bias can cause snap judgments of people of different races.
The white father of a black daughter discussed how he warned her of the biases of others, only to catch himself profiling a black man he saw on the street. A black St. Louis police officer spoke of realizing that in his career he had stereotyped others in a similar way as officers had done with him when he was younger.
The officer now trains his fellow law enforcement officers on implicit bias, an effort that has gained urgency following the high-profile police shootings of black men. But awareness and education must go beyond law enforcement, as unconscious biases affect actions in all fields from hiring decisions to student discipline.
Even the most well-intentioned among us have hidden biases baked into our brains. University of Florida psychology professor and Project Implicit director Kate Ratliff, who put together the local version of the test, said our upbringings can cause them but the media also has a significant influence.
Acknowledging these biases exist is the first step for all of us, especially those of us in the media, to work to prevent the negative consequences they can cause.
— Nathan Crabbe is The Sun’s opinion and engagement editor.