‘Implicit bias’: The problem and how to interrupt it. Plus, the beads test.

Let me tell you a story about implicit bias. In 2009, I married a man I met the first day of law school. He is white. I am black. We live on Chicago’s North Side. I often walk around my neighborhood with my two biracial kids. My kids could pass for white. And because I am black, I am often assumed, by some well-meaning parents, to be my children’s nanny. I am asked how much I am paid, do I have any friends looking for work, or am I looking for work. I was once told, “You treat them just like your own kids!”

And it’s not just what’s said. It’s what unsaid. It’s when those well-meaning parents don’t sit next to you on the bench, include you in conversations, or look you directly in the eye, because they think you are the nanny.

When they treat you like someone who just doesn’t belong. Now they would never claim they were doing it on purpose, or that they were acting biased at all, until you ask them, “Why do you think I am the nanny?”

See, this is implicit bias. And it helps explain (in part) the rash of publicly reported incidents over the past month of white people calling police on people of color who look like they just don’t belong.

It’s because (in part) they think one thing should only be this way, because they have only ever seen it this way, and cannot adjust their mind to seeing it any way else.

How can we interrupt that bias? How can you interrupt that bias?

Start by accepting that we all have biases. We need to stop pretending we don’t notice differences. We do; we all do, even if it’s unconscious.

READ MORE  The Chicago Tribune  June 11, 2018

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Michelle Silverthorn

Michelle Silverthorn

After spending seventeen years living in the Caribbean, Michelle undertook a number of around-the-world detours before ending up at the doorstep of the Commission, including four years as a general litigator in New York and Chicago. She remembers pretty much everyone she’s met in her travels but she would especially like to meet again the passengers on a January 2001 flight from Miami to JFK. At the pilot’s request, they donated enough money for Michelle, who had her wallet stolen, to get back to college safely. She would very much like to tell them all thanks.
Michelle Silverthorn

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