In her much acclaimed book Biased, Stanford psychology professor Jennifer Eberhardt, a MacArthur Fellow, shows how stereotypes arise and how they work in the background to shape people’s perceptions and actions. In crisp language, using research studies as well as history lessons, she demonstrates that bias against African-Americans is pervasive and longstanding.
Eberhardt says human brains evolved with a “same-race advantage,” a built-in bias that, she asserts, often leads to the misidentification of criminals if they’re from a different race than their victims. Additionally, confirmation bias drives people to look for information that supports their beliefs. They don’t see facts that contradict what they think or that challenge their sense of self. She finds that this reinforces stereotypes and leads to “implicit bias,” which is very hard to eradicate. Confronting it, she says, is the only way to bring about change, and it makes everyone’s world more just.
Biased, described as “groundbreaking” by well-known human rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson (read a recent in-depth interview with him conducted by Isaac Chotiner for The New Yorker here), is without doubt the book of the hour. Read our review here:
So, the main problem is that biases are unconscious. As a result, you may be unaware of some of the reasons underlying your actions and reactions – especially when it comes to dealing with people of different color. In other words, most forms of racism are not explicit! But every single one of them is harmful. Even if you didn’t mean to hurt someone. Or didn’t realize.
If you increase your awareness of your biases, though, you can take steps to circumvent them – as do orchestras that audition players behind a screen to bypass race, age and gender biases, and just hear the music.
In Everyday Bias, diversity consultant Howard J. Ross explains the evolutionary roots of our bias, and outlines strategies for finding and defusing individual and organizational prejudices. This book, too, is perhaps never more important than it is today:
Everyday BiasRowman & Littlefield
Find out more about bias and prejudice, and how to be aware of them, in our channels:
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
This article is part of getAbstract’s effort to raise awareness of the seriousness of racism in society. Here, you will find free resources on the topic that educate and offer strategies to change an untenable situation.