The new science of bias suggests that we all carry prejudices within ourselves—and we all have the tools to keep them in check.
The distinction between explicit and implicit bias is important, because it changes how we address prejudice in every corner of society, from police departments to schools to homes. If the problem is with racists—individuals like Steve King—then the solution is to identify them and limit their influence. That does need to happen; indeed, after Chief David Brown took over the Dallas police department in 2010, he fired over 70 officers from his force—and excessive-force complaints dropped by 64 percent.
From explicit to implicit bias
For many people, the very possibility that they too might get caught saying one thing but doing another is extremely threatening and aversive. That threat, in fact, has a name: aversive racism. It refers to the type of racism in which a person’s implicit biases are so out of line with their conscious values that social situations where they experience this conflict—such as interracial interactions—are something to fear and avoid.
Did we evolve to be racist?
Six ways to stop the racist in you
- Consciously commit yourself to egalitarianism.
- But recognize that unconscious bias is no more “the real you” than your conscious values. You are both the unconscious and the conscious.
- Acknowledge differences, rather than pretend that you are ignoring them.
- Seek out friendship with people from different groups, in order to increase your brain’s familiarity with different people and expand your point of view.
- It’s natural to focus on how people are different from you, but try to consciously identify what qualities and goals you might have in common.
- When you encounter examples of unambiguous bias, speak out against them. Why? Because that helps create and reinforce a standard for yourself and the people around you, in addition to providing some help to those who are the targets of explicit and implicit prejudice.