YWCA Southeast Wisconsin
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March 2015

By Martha Barry, PhD, Racial Justice Director, YWCA Southeast Wisconsin

Implicit Bias

Racism still challenges us, but sometimes it helps to discuss implicit bias with others. Implicit bias - a positive or negative mental attitude towards a person, thing, or group that a person holds on an unconscious level.

We implicitly - or unconsciously - determine certain people we like, don’t like, or think are less than us. This level of bias can be an indicator of our prejudice.

We may state that all “men are created equal” while implicitly conveying that women are not as savvy as men in handling finances, being engineers, driving cars or managing technology.

The challenge of implicit bias is revealed in what we self-report of our bias and what is measured in an implicit bias association test. Our self-report numbers show prejudice disappearing as we seemingly become more tolerant and more accepting of differences. Yet, the reality is racism looms large in social settings, educational achievement, health outcomes, and employability where disparities persist. Notions of race are rooted in our unconscious minds; assumptions of abilities and capabilities fixed subconsciously.

How can each of us become more aware of our implicit biases, particularly as they relate to our assumptions about race? If each of us is mindful of how socialization instills racialized beliefs about groups of people, we can bring this consciousness to the forefront and acknowledge our biases.

If we acknowledge our biases, we can begin to see the collective effects of implicit bias in our everyday lives, our families, our neighborhoods, our institutions and society. Consider the following questions:

  • Does my bias show when I’m hiring or reviewing an employee’s performance?
  • Do I understand how my biases impact my everyday decisions?
  • Am I committed to systemic change in order for each person to achieve full potential in my organization?

Our consciousness needs to grow.

As we reveal our implicit biases, we can think differently about how we educate children, who we hire, promote, and advance in our organizations, how we develop housing communities and more. 

As we better understand our racial biases we’ll begin to see the need for a variety of people and their perspectives in our personal and work lives. Progress will mean living with the questions needed to bring a new reality to life. This new reality will reveal a world where all people are afforded full access to the goods, services, and benefits, not based on biases, but on rational, authentic human opportunities.

 

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The 2038 Racial Justice Blog includes monthly insight from YWCA staff and community members working for a more just and equitable Milwaukee. Learn more about our 2038 goal.