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The fascinating Implicit Associations tests pick up knee-jerk, subconscious biases. Harvard has ongoing online research using these tests, which thousands of people have taken. Anyone can participate through an easy process. You can investigate your own biases as well as support their very important research into these issues. My own result for the racial bias (and age bias) tests I took a few months ago were surprising to me, even though I thought I knew where I stood in my biases.

Here is the link to the test:

Focusing on the racial associations tests, according to the study so far, 70% of Americans (they don't divide the results by race) show a bias against Black people. The website does not trumpet this pivotal finding, but they do discuss/mention it. Perhaps this is because the study is still ongoing so they consider the results officially "preliminary". I know that researchers bend over backwards to not be or appear to be biased toward their own findings until they are as ironclad as possible. Yet again, thousands have taken this test and their technique of testing biases, their tool, has been show in the past to be effective.

The study findings explain the too-common white reaction to Obama and why many of the subtly and not so subtly racist-tinged insist they are not racist when we call out their irrational and outsized level of anger, antipathy, distrust, negativity, and judgement towards him. I think it explains some of the anger and outraged reactions they have to our calling-out and why they say those that accuse them of racism are making it up, or as they say "playing the race card". Many just aren't fully aware of their own racism. This doesn't let them off the hook for their racism-they need to root it out and work to vanquish it as many white people of good will and open mind strive to do. Of course, there are also the outwardly racist who know they are and think it is right, and probably many more who would vociferously defend themselves against charges of racism when they know they harbor those feelings. I suspect that certain politicians and right wing "journalists" and pundits fall into that latter category.

The results support our intuitive understanding in explaining much of the disparity in police reactions to Black people. especially during all-to-common episodes of violent over-reactions, which often require quick decisions around relative "danger". If the automatic snap judgement is that Black people are "bad" and "dangerous" or "criminal" (these kind of negative word associations are tested for against various races in the study) and that is the involuntarily judgement of many police officers, the implications are dire for Black people in interaction with Police. Even if a Black person is within eye shot of an officer, it would seem (if I interpret the study correctly-dicuss!) there is a more than even chance that the person would register as more 'suspicious' to him than a white person would. Thus, we get the walking while Black, driving while Black, breathing while Black that we all see.

There is of course also "being on trial while Black". The ramifications and usefulness of this study seem profound in when contemplating and addressing the inequality and lack of justice in the criminal "justice" system. It seems the majority of Americans from all walks of life have at least some implicit bias against Black people. My interpretation is that testing positive for implicit bias means one is not completely under control of one's prejudiced reactions even if one does work on trying to eliminate them as such professionals should. Even if legal professionals and judges were working to be equally fair to all, the study suggests the possibility that many may not have their knee-jerk biases fully under control. Moreover, with this study we can now show the likelyhood that many jurors start off with an implicit bias against Black defendants. It would be interesting if judges, prosecutors, and juries were tested for implicit bias. Even now, it would seem the study could be used to help Black defendants. Perhaps someone who is a lawyer could clarify how the results of this study,when the researchers deem in completed, should and could be used in the justice system to level the playing field for Black Americans. Surely this information needs to be used for this purpose if it is not.

It is a shame that the MSM or even, as far as I know, the left leaning media, hasn't reported on the study and its significant and currently very relevant findings and implications. It seems important for the public to be broadly aware of our ubiquitous bias against Black people-surely it will shape the important discussions on race we are having and influence people into examining their own racism and knee jerk biases. Our opinions and intuitions about this bias hold less weight with the unconvinced than the results of a study of thousands done at Harvard. So, I hope you will join me in spreading the word about the study.  All of us can use the, at least preliminary,results of this study as the perfect counter argument to people expressing racism who are insisting they are not and that we are "playing the race card". It seems to be unbiased evidence of what Black people viscerally know and experience and what intuitive and open non-Black people also perceive. And it is the counter argument to the noxious ideas the right wing and Fox push that there really is just something wrong with Black people that entirely explains their relative difficulties in getting ahead in education, careers and many areas as well as their higher incarceration rates and "criminality".

What is largely wrong, seemingly, is that 70% of Americans have a subconscious, instant, negative judgement of Black people.

Originally posted to jplanner on Tue Sep 02, 2014 at 10:05 PM PDT.

Also republished by Black Kos community and Barriers and Bridges.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Interesting. I heard about this study (10+ / 0-)

    on NPR.  I think we're stuck in racism hell until this becomes a wide conversation.  Hiding from reality has not worked.  I came face to face with my racism about 7 years ago, a knee-jerk fear when I saw 3 young black men outside the front door of my apt building.  (I had been warned the neighborhood was iffy.)  hmmm. Imagine my surprise when they helped me open the doors and carried my groceries to my kitchen.   (I had 5 grocery bags, a workout bag, my purse, and a music bag, I was almost crawling.) I had thought I was completely cool with POC.  It was a good lesson, the cultural forces are powerful and the propaganda about young black males is intense.  I'm aware now that I'm infected, and try to pay attention.

    I'm not looking for a love that will lift me up and carry me away. A love that will stroll alongside and make a few amusing comments will suffice.

    by I love OCD on Tue Sep 02, 2014 at 10:21:31 PM PDT

    •  All we can do is acknowledge it (6+ / 0-)

      and try to root it out of ourselves, as you are. I like your honesty. I think that is one way to get more thoughtful people with subconscious racism to look at their own. In telling your story for example, someone might say "hmm I do that too.".

      Otherwise,  I find it hard to convince others of their (obvious to me) subconscious racism . I think this study may help as it isn't about my "mistaken" perception about them.. Glad to hear it was on NPR.

      Thanks for commenting! Will be back tomorrow, time for bed!

  •  Thanks for posting on this. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jplanner, marina, Mostel26, ceebee7

    I've referred to it in a couple of comments lately, too. It is so important.

    One thing it means is that people can't help how they see things, in the moment, though you are right that if you are aware of your biases you can work on them. Just thinking good unracist thoughts does not change your implicit biases, and the biases literally determine what you see (a gun or a cell phone; a threat or a person in need of help).

    By the same token, changing how people think consciously is not the only or necessarily the best way to change their implicit biases. There are other kinds of "de-biasing" procedures that we could be using. (I'll try to post links tomorrow - it's too late to hunt them up now!).

    And as I said in a comment elsewhere, it would be possible to use tests like this to assess job applicants. This seems a remote possibility but if we cared enough we would do it.

    One thing I think is interesting about the tests themselves (and the site has many, on many topics) is that if my bias is strong I can FEEL it as I do the test - I can feel the 'pull' one way and the resistance the other. Try it and you might see what I mean. I think this itself is potentially very useful - you can use it to learn the feeling of bias. And then notice when it crops up in your life...

    To other readers - Try this test. You might be surprised, one way or another, and you will certainly learn something.

    Higher Ground! That's what we deserve. And that's what we demand! -Rev. Barber

    by sfinx on Tue Sep 02, 2014 at 10:38:20 PM PDT

    •  Glad it's at least being discussed in some places (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      sfinx, Mostel26, ceebee7, urnumbersix

      If it's' been written about on DK, I missed it. Perhaps I should have searched first.

      I've taken a number of the tests and do feel the pull you describe on some.

      I wonder if research has gone into seeing if implicit bias can change (perhaps you know in saying we can't?).

      The way I work on my biases, in addition to thinking good unracist thoughts ;), is to work hard to catch and make conscious those quick, knee jerk , in the moment judgments and talk them down. I am pretty sure this kind of manifestation of racism is at least some of what the test captures, when it does. Since I've been working on that it feels like those negative reactions come up much less frequently as my internal voice seems to change it mid-thought,in a flash, automatically. I can't validate this perception/assess for any positive change though because my negative racial bias didn't show up on the initial testing.

      Thank you for posting.

      •  I haven't seen it diaried before. If it has been, (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Mostel26, ceebee7, jplanner

        it needed repeating!

        There is some research on changing implicit biases. It can be done, and I think your technique is likely to have an effect. I'll hunt up some links. But I think it's hard to eradicate them completely if they are established early in life.

        Also, explicit racist beliefs (as opposed to implicit biases) are also really important in their effects. Working on freeing yourself from them is vital, whether or not that filters through to the implicit level!

        Higher Ground! That's what we deserve. And that's what we demand! -Rev. Barber

        by sfinx on Tue Sep 02, 2014 at 11:51:31 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  if so, i am pleasantly surprised it's that low (5+ / 0-)

    racism is so deeply baked into our culture and society, that most sympathetic non-blacks show some degree of unconscious bias against blacks, and in some ways, many blacks as well.

    if we're already up to 30%, we are really getting somewhere, for this particular country and society.

  •  The 70 percent figure shocks me a little, but ... (7+ / 0-)

    now that I'm officially retired and not always surrounded by a fairly progressive crowd, I'm running into some totally racist Neanderthals ... otherwise known as "my cousins." I've watched a neighbor over the past 30 years do a complete turnaround in his attitude toward black people, so it's possible to change. But the person has to WANT to change, and I think therein lies the problem -- too many of us are too insecure to actually deal with the fact that we might be ignorant.

  •  Not surprised. Two points: (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jplanner, urnumbersix

    1. Tim Wise has admitted to and written about "sub-conscious racial bias" that invades his thought process due to living America, where racism is subliminally reinforced to the populace by various means in various media -- and some of it sinks in to his consciousness without any active thought on his part, occasionally triggering a racist thought.  (I hope I've described it accurately.  I am guilty of this from time to time, as well... even though I was actively taught racial equality in the home from the time I was five and have actively in word and deed opposed racism whenever opportunities arose.)  So it's not surprising that a study would come up with the results spoken of in the diary.  I believe racism is endemic and inherent in American life.  I'm glad Michael Brown's tragic murder seems to have brought discussion of racism in America to a new level.

    2. Sometime in the Fall of 2008, when the Presidential election was imminent, two Democratic canvassers were going door-to-door in Ohio, and one of them reported the following incident in a comment here in dKos:

    One evening we were in a mid-sized city in Ohio, in a fairly nice, solidly middle-class neighborhood.  We walked up to the front door and rang the bell.  A young woman answered.  We introduced ourselves and asked if she minded telling us whom she planned on voting for.  She called over her shoulder, "Honey, who are we voting for?"  A male voice answered from deeper inside the house: "We're votin' for the ni**er."

    How children dance to the unlived lives of their parents. Rilke

    by ceebee7 on Wed Sep 03, 2014 at 02:56:32 AM PDT

    •  I had a learning experience back in the early (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jplanner, urnumbersix


      I was working in a large hotel in Chicago, and a guest needed to find the bellman (they were all men back then) who had taken her bags to her room.  We didn't track that information so I tried to get enough info about his appearance to at least narrow it down to a couple of people.

      My first question was about the bellman's race, and her response (she wasn't an American) was, "I didn't notice."  But she did know his eye color, something I personally don't notice.

      What aspects of reality we pay attention to and which we ignore inevitably affect how we perceive the world around us.

    •  I'd heard that second story, heh. (0+ / 0-)

      I think may have Obama laughed at that one.

  •  70% of ALL Americans? (0+ / 0-)

    Because that'd be either ALL of white America and/or that many black people themselves have the same reflexive bias.

    I will be interested once they have full data to present.

    "Ferguson proves melanin is like catnip for bad cops; the more of this pigment one has, the more it attracts pigs." - pajoly

    by pajoly on Wed Sep 03, 2014 at 06:14:21 AM PDT

    •  America is NOT Just Black & White! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      It is also Brown, Yellow, Red, and every combinstion of all of the aabove.

      Perhaps you consider all non-Whites to be Black?

      I am not now, nor have I ever been, a member of the Republican Party.

      by OnlyWords on Wed Sep 03, 2014 at 07:22:51 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •   The study doesn't differentiate responders race (0+ / 0-)

      from what I read, and they will likely not change that mid-study. We can only assume, seems to me, that they represent a cross section of the public. All races. In the discussion they say "Americans..." It is my belief that no one thinks the results will change much from what they are now, as thousands have been tested. I await hearing what they think their findings mean. They don't yet say so I was tentative in the diary about meaning.

      Black people are about 13 percent of the populace. 73% of the US population is white and around 14 %, doing the math, identify to other races.We can't discount some implicit bias in Black people toward other Black people, theoretically but it seems the math could work out even without that. I think it is likely that the majority of whites have some, if buried, racism. I wish they did divided the results by race.

  •  thoughts (0+ / 0-)

    The results probably have an error range of plus/minus one category.  There just didn't seem enough data otherwise.

    I was moderately biased to whites. This was the second most biased to whites category out of 7[3 on each side].  This feels right to me.  I don't think it implies that I am racist though.  Generally I try not to judge people in a split second and can recognize my instinctual response for what it is and assign very little weight to it.

    Also, when I was shown my results it was 26% strongly biased to whites, 26% moderately biased to whites, and something in the teens for slightly biased.  I don't think it is right to lump all these responses together.  They were separated out for a reason.

    •  you have a relative bias against Blacks (0+ / 0-)

      on this test if you test positive for whites. Unless it has changed, only darker skinned Black people and people of obvious European decent are the choices.  
      Implicit biases are ones we aren't always aware of. The tool..this test is well accepted as reliable. I am not sure if you are saying you don't believe you are biased-didn't believe the test- or instead you mean that implicit often unconscious bias against Black people is not racist.

  •  Let me just say (0+ / 0-)

    I know about this study, however, I do question whether the researchers can reliably validate that it tests what they say it does.  There is a lot of research on witness identification that shows that people have much more familiarity with people with the same racial characteristics, and what the researchers are classifying as bias might also be a form of delayed recognition or closer inspection because of lack of familiarity.  I am not saying that they are wrong, but their assumption that the length of time it takes you to assign a value to something can be equated with negative bias strikes me as somewhat presumptuous.  

    •  Iirc they address the validity of their tool, (0+ / 0-)

      somewhere on the site but I'm not able to find it. Though your ideas do make sense. Commonly social scientists formulate and then do research studies on tools to test their validity. Studies of tests themselves are published and peer reviewed. This one is well accepted.

      I admit to going on faith that Harvard researchers would use a well validated tool even though like you I can't understand on my own how it could be validated. I don't remember the details of how they supported its use and validity in measuring what they mean to measure.

    •  except I humbly disagree with the last (0+ / 0-)

      ie "presumptuous". Someone would have to read over explanations of the tool and of what researchers have discovered about implicit bias to find out why they thought that before assuming it is hubris not science.
      The recognition stuff about your own race is about differentiating individual faces. It is harder to do so in faces of not-your-race. Hence the unfortunate phrase "they all look alike". The study doesn't require diffentiation of individuals. Each face is used to represent a catagory only-Black or white. Familiarity with ones own race seems not relevant.

  •  Tipped & rec'ed nt (0+ / 0-)

    I voted Tuesday, May 6, 2014 because it is my right, my responsibility and because my parents moved from Alabama to Ohio to vote. Unfortunately, the republicons want to turn Ohio into Alabama.

    by a2nite on Wed Sep 03, 2014 at 08:47:19 AM PDT

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