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Think You’re Not Racist?

Think you’re not racist?

Go to https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/ to find out.

First you’ll fill out a survey asking how racist you are. You’ll probably think you aren’t. But a test of unconscious attitudes will likely suggest otherwise.

In the test you will be asked to quickly categorize whether a face that appears on screen is black or white. Next you will be asked to categorize whether a word is negative or positive. All this is very quick and easy. Then you will see a screen like the following:

     Black Person                                                      White Person

            or                                criminal                                or

         Bad                                                                             Good

Your job is to categorize words like “criminal” as belonging to either the left or right side of the screen. The categorization process must go very quickly in order to measure the unconscious mind and not our conscious efforts to deliberately act against our prejudices.

People quickly categorize negative words like “criminal” (or “harm” or “depraved”) as belonging on the left hand side. Positive words like “smart” are quickly assigned to the right.

But then the test switches so that “black person” is paired with “good,” while “white person” is paired with “bad.”

     Black Person                                                      White Person

            or                                criminal                                or

         Good                                                                            Bad

Suddenly, most people take more time to correctly place “criminal” on the right side of the screen. They also make more mistakes, assigning negative words like “violence” to the left.

When the test is done you will be placed into one of the following categories:

     Strong preference for whites                       Strong preference for blacks

     Moderate preference for whites                Moderate preference for blacks

     Slight preference for whites                       Slight preference for blacks

                                                            No preference

80% of people show pro-white associations – and that includes about half of the black test-takers, too. Yet few of us think we are racist.

People take the test over and over again, trying to change their score, but they usually end up in the same place every time.

If you show a preference for whites, are you a bad person? With 80% of the population, and about half of blacks, registering that preference, what it really tells you is that you live in a racist society filled with messages that whites are better.

Our minds unconsciously notice that presidents of the U.S. and large companies are usually white, that supermodels are usually white, and that doctors are usually white. So we unconsciously bring positive connotations to that color. Our minds also unconsciously notice that the poor and the disparaged are often black, creating negative associations.

Any hope for change?

Yes.

Some people end up categorized as “no preference” for either race. Others move around from, say, “moderate preference for whites” to “moderate preference for blacks,” suggesting they lack (much) bias. (I’m one of those who move around. Truth be told, I most often end up at “slight preference for whites,” suggesting some unconscious lasting residue of cultural prejudice. I still have work to do!)

People with little or no bias have generally made more conscious efforts to see the world in unbiased ways. They become aware of their unconscious prejudices and critique them.

Focusing on the accomplishments of great Black leaders, thinkers, poets, and scientists like Nelson Mandela, Sojourner Truth, Barack Obama, Maya Angelou, Oprah Winfrey, Fredrick Douglas, Harriet Tubman, Alice Walker, George Washington Carver, and many more, can help people appreciate the talents and intellect of our brothers and sisters of African descent.

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