Implicit bias is the bias you didn’t know you have. It’s:
- the engineer you thought didn’t have social skills
- the woman you thought was a designer
- the man of color walking toward you at dusk who you deem a threat
- the kid who looked so young you treated them like they didn’t understand what was going on around them
It’s this stereotyping that humans used to judge danger in far less certain times. It was, and can still be, a useful tool to assess situations quickly. In times where there is no danger, thought, implicit bias can cause trouble for you and those around you.
We all have biases like this. No matter how hard you try, they will always be in your head. The only way to fight is to understand your own biases and assumptions and work to counteract them.
The longer I research diversity and inclusivity, the more I keep coming back to implicit bias and the work we all need to be doing to fight it, moment by moment.
Implicit Association Test
While I was thinking about this, I took the Implicit Association Test for light- and dark-skinned people. It was interesting, mixing positive and negative words with light and dark skinned people. My results showed no preference on skin color, but I can tell you I wasn’t sure that would be the case when I started the test.
There are many implicit association tests: weight, gender, different races, sexuality.
I’ve found that this job is never done, despite my best efforts. I recently caught myself stereotyping my coworkers and I felt bad about it.
There’s no easy answer to this except to be ready to examine yourself and work to eliminate your biases.
Check these resources out to learn more: