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Confronting Implicit Bias

· conflict,implicit,bias

The unconscious attribution of particular qualities to a member of a certain social group.

Harvard in collaboration with other researchers and universities has a website where you can test your Implicit Bias. The project is called Project Implicit.

I was excited to prove that I didn't have a strong affinity away from a particular group. And, I was surprised by the results.

The first test I took, I found completing it didn't take long, but I didn't follow the instructions completely because I didn’t take the time to memorize what characteristics and stereotypes they wanted me to associate with a name, so I ended up just going off what my gut was saying. I knew all of the “bad” and “good” signifiers, but parts of the test pair names with the different positive and negative signifiers.

What I really think was challenging was how the test was conducted. The first group of names was paired with “bad” signifiers. Then, in the next round, the other names were paired with the “bad” signifiers. So, when I had to quickly react and identify which character was paired with what, I naturally had to pause and make sure I was pairing correctly. I am hopeful that if the other names were first paired with the “bad” signifiers, that I would have had results that leaned away from implicit bias.

Implicit bias is tough to manage or even talk about because it is, at its essence, unconscious.​

If I think about these results in daily life, I have been told what is “bad” and “good” and had associations with particular names, genders, ethnicities, etc, and I can see that having those associations at the beginning would draw attention to those learned signifiers.

This article emphasizes stories that reflect racial bias.

The author has an insight that "...implicit bias, inherently unintentional yet more pervasive[]" is affecting policing, and then the author makes the assertion that "[i]f officers rely on stereotypes instead of facts, routine encounters can escalate or turn deadly."

The New York Police department decided, and agrees with the assertion, that training is necessary in order to reduce deadly encounters. "[The training] will run through next year, and all members of the department will be trained as part of $4.5 million contract with Fair and Impartial Policing, a Florida company that has emerged as a leading provider of such training."

Lorie A. Fridell who runs Fair and Impartial Policing stated,

The key to this training is [changing] your behavior...We need to make sure your behavior is not biased.

Noble L. Wray, a trainer with Fair and Impartial Policing and former Police Chief with Madison Police Departments states, "...[my] own tendency to stereotype young, black men - even though they shared [my] skin color" was disturbing. Noble Wray too needed to change his behavior.

So, when they teach Fair and Impartial Policing they start by "...discussing the consequences of allowing bias to impact policing, a mantra is repeated: Those who fail to manage stereotypes will be less safe, less effective and less just."

The author goes on to say that "[p]atrol officers are taught six ways to reduce and manage biases." And, "[a]nother exercise encourages officers to recognize biased behavior in others - and not to be on guard for profiling by proxy."

However, Patricia G. Devine, a professor and researcher on prejudice is a skeptic of the approach, and says there needs to be more research done on "how [this specific] training can impact [officer's] behaviors."

I think that that changing the behavior of people is the most important challenge for any organization in a turbulent world.

The researcher in me would tend to favor the skeptic; however, the "proven" way of training that has been practiced for many years is not fitting to the times.

In fact, it turns out, the "expert" is often wrong, so I am glad that the New York Police Department is trying something new and after a year, evaluating what difference the training had on the department, the City of New York, and the citizens that they serve.

The people we should want to surround ourself with should have quality conversations - like implicit bias. We need to think about the richer, broader conversations of implicit bias, and through the richness of conversation and life experience, that will affect the quality of the work we all are doing, and the change we seek to make.