What is Implicit Bias?

Below is a link to the first in a series of New York Times videos examining the subject. It is related to the idea of intuition and how we acquire and process knowledge and information.


Implicit bias and the NFL draft Teams don’t recognize how unconscious attitudes about race affect which players they select

“Even in an industry where minority workers sometimes appear to be favored for highly desirable jobs,” the two concluded, “employers may still fall prey to symbolic discrimination, relying on deeply embedded stereotypes about minority groups during the interview process.”

The Science of Why Cops Shoot Young Black Men And how to reform our bigoted brains.

We’re not born with racial prejudices. We may never even have been “taught” them. Rather, explains Nosek, prejudice draws on “many of the same tools that help our minds figure out what’s good and what’s bad.” In evolutionary terms, it’s efficient to quickly classify a grizzly bear as “dangerous.” The trouble comes when the brain uses similar processes to form negative views about groups of people.


272 Slaves Were Sold to Save Georgetown. What Does It Owe Their Descendants?

This article raises a lot of interesting questions and issues.

The use of documentary evidence to reconstruct past events, motivations and the movement of people raises the question: How do we learn about the past? When there is a gap in the historical record, it’s impossible for us to know certain things. Documents were also used to trace modern day descendants of these slaves who were sold.

This article also raises questions about whether we, presently, have any responsibility for the past actions of our institutions or governments. Can we make amends for the past? Can a moral “debt” be paid off monetarily? Through remembrance? Plaques?

Lastly, this raises the question of what history is worth knowing? When learning history we have to make choices about what to include and what to exclude in addition to the choices we make around interpretation.

You should also read some of the comments for this article because they communicate diverse opinions about these questions.

“In 1838, the Jesuit priests who ran the country’s top Catholic university needed money to keep it alive. Now comes the task of making amends.”

“Meanwhile, Georgetown’s working group has been weighing whether the university should apologize for profiting from slave labor, create a memorial to those enslaved and provide scholarships for their descendants, among other possibilities, said Dr. Rothman, the historian.

“‘It’s hard to know what could possibly reconcile a history like this,’ he said. ‘What can you do to make amends?'”


The Planet Money Podcast recently did two episodes on this question. You can find the links here:




One woman’s mission to photograph every Native American tribe in the US

What does this article tell us about the power of culture and imagery in shaping our perceptions of various groups of people? To what degree can those perceptions be changed? Is it wrong to propagate false or inaccurate representations? This connects to the debate about sports mascots to some degree.

“Matika Wilbur has traveled more than 250,000 miles to ensure stereotyped images are replaced with accurate ones to change history’s collective psyche.”

“A search for Native Americans on the internet yields almost nothing but reductionist, 18th-century representations of a ‘feathered and leathered people’, Wilbur says. She hopes the pictures she’s taking can someday replace the stereotyped, dated ones found in internet searches, and the ones we hold on to in our collective psyche.

“‘I’m ultimately doing this because our perception matters,’ she says. ‘Our perception fuels racism. It fuels segregation. Our perception determines the way we treat each other.'”


How ‘Privilege’ Became a Provocation

But the shine has come off this hardy, once-­helpful word. It looks a little worn, a bit blunted, as if it has been taken to too many fights. Instead of clarity, it has sown confusion: ‘‘I’m white, my husband is Latino,’’ one woman commented on a blog post about confronting your privilege. ‘‘We have a Latino last name. Does that mean I lose some of my white privilege?’’ Even those who find it useful in certain contexts say the word swallows too many subtleties and individual variations. ‘‘You need to know that I was privileged,’’ Ta-­Nehisi Coates wrote on his blog for The Atlantic. ‘‘I can run you all kinds of stats on the racial wealth gap and will gladly discuss its origins. But you can’t really buy two parents like I had.’’ My own allegiance to the word is atavistic — growing up, it was one of the few words I had to understand the racism I felt so surrounded and mystified by. But now I find myself wielding the word warily, like the devalued currency it has become — dismissed as jargon or used to hector. The only reliable effect it seems to produce is panic.


How labels like ‘black’ and ‘working class’ shape your identity

“In contrast, the terms “black” and “working class” are laden with the baggage of associations, perhaps some of them positive, but many of them negative. When a person is labeled “black,” we’re primed to perceive the characteristics that we tend to associate with “blackness” more generally, which is why students drew racially ambiguous faces with typically black features when they were told the face belonged to a “black” person. Participants in the experiment at Princeton similarly associated Hannah’s working-class background with diminished intellect, so they tended to emphasize her failings and overlook her strengths when they watched her complete an academic test.”