You have no racial bias, right? Color blind as a bat? Prove it. Go to this site, choose “demonstration” and “Race IAT.” It takes about 10-15 minutes.
I promise, this isn’t some NAACP litmus test, PC “gotcha” vocabulary test or HR Department sensitivity training class. Those things deal with conscious decisions — what we choose to state as our values. This gauges our unconscious decisions — the automatic associations we make when we don’t have time to think.
I first learned of this test in Malcolm Gladwell’s terrific book Blink. The bottom line is that 80% of all who have ever taken the test take longer to complete answers when they are required to put positive words next to African American faces, assumably because at the test taker’s core the association between good and African American just doesn’t feel natural. As you may recall if you were awake in Psych 101, this is what shrinks call “cognitive dissonance.”
Again, these are unconscious attitudes that we don’t choose. As Gladwell puts it, “The giant computer that is our unconscious silently crunches all the data it can from the experiences we’ve had, the people we’ve met, the lessons we’ve learned, the books we’ve read, the movies we’ve seen, and so on, and it forms an opinion.”
Because our supercomputers are susceptible to “garbage in, garbage out,” maybe it’s not such a silly PC exercise after all to carefully consider what we are pumping into our brains through our books, movies, news media and language choices. Because it apparently does matter.
More disturbing, other studies find that those who make unconscious negative associations with African Americans also unconsciously behave differently toward African Americans. For instance, compared to how Eurpopean Americans act around European Americans, we disproportionately make less eye contact, use less welcoming body language and laugh less around African Americans. Those kinds of unconscious behaviors obviously impact personal and professional relationships, judgments and decisions. It’s not a huge leap to think similar unconscious behaviors manifest themselves when we are making hiring choices, jury verdicts, banking decisions, classroom placements and assignment desk and editing calls.
These kinds of tests of our unconsciousness show that most of us have bias in our core that we don’t really understand, bias that manifests itself in lots of behaviors we can’t and don’t control, unless we make an extra effort. Unless we make an extra effort. That’s not white guilt; for 80% of us, that’s just reality.
Some times when there is a race issue boiling in the news media or in my life, I take this test again. And I never get the result I want. Here’s hoping you do better than me.
— Joe Loveland