Is “Implicit Bias” Just Another Excuse?


anthemIs ‘implicit bias’  REALLY present ‘ONLY’at a subconscious level or is it a cop-out…another excuse? Here is one opinion, baked by experience and little scientific research, but just as plausible as the critical examination of theoretical frameworks.  We speak of everyday biases, the not -so obvious or covert displays of prejudice, and we lend excuses to them by offering an escape to those who demonstrate an alignment with the politically incorrect ‘caricature’-ish attitudes regarding individuals who represent racial, ethnic, religious….diversity.

Implicit bias demonstrates stereotypic thinking, “immaculate perceptions”, derived from the lack of empathic awareness, cultural sensitivity, the absence of knowledge which correlates with a certain level of open-mindedness, critical reasoning and logical thought. It may feel comfortable, normal, regular, and even realistic to see others through these narrow, ethnocentric cultural lenses. It may feel right and evidence-based.

In reality, it can derive from fear and self-loathing; an insecurity or historical guilt which manifests as legitimate reasons to devalue  disrespect and deny access to resources, opportunities and rights to thrive in an ‘equal’ society. Thus, it makes it excusable, less embarrassing, and less racist to minimize its impact on the way we see the world or the way we see ourselves in relation to others in the world. It just feeds the ego, and we accept that.

It is evidence that we are afraid to ‘let the chips fall where they may”. That feels too random, the work is harder and it is more challenging. We don’t know whether we could cut it if the playing fields were made level. That is just fear and excuses to not work our hardest-to the best of our ability. Thus, we convince ourselves and others that we are better, more superior, deserving, privileged and entitled to win at all costs.

As a survivor of a marriage wrought with ‘intimate partner’ violence, psychological and physical abuses, I have come to believe that when someone constantly degrades you and makes you feel less confident about who you are-your value, your worth- it is because of the way that person feels about him or herself.  If I work feverishly to convince you that I am better, stronger, faster… than you, it is because I need to convince myself that I am at least equal to you and I desperately need recognition of my own value. It is not about you, but it’s about my insecurities, unmet needs, and any personal guilt is masked by overt aggression and cruelty.

Some will hear these put-downs and begin to believe and internalize the words, despite the inner voices which say otherwise. Eventually, we must face ourselves honestly AND others equally as honest, yet, some people never confront their demons. Better to arrive at that point out of desire to evolve and develop empathy than have it thrust upon us unprepared. When that happens, people get hurt.

We see this all too often with police-involved shootings. Implicit bias causes unintended, avoidable harm. When someone does get hurt, families don’t want to hear and won’t accept your excuses. The harm will be perceived avoidable-your fault, your ignorance, and no matter how well defended, deep inside, you know the truth.  It is your fault. Accept it, and learn from it, as a teachable moment. with the understanding that you must learn a new way to think before you can master a new way to be.

In the matter of the elephant in the room, called racism, one would think that we have truly evolved and developed the strength, sense of humanity, fairness and the capacity to engage in a collective and respectful conversation in recognition of that divisive elephant. Not just empty talk, but talk followed by action. Rather, we avoid the inevitable, only to result in volatile, highly charged confrontations with one another, civil unrest and a revolution. The truth hurts, but in the presence of truth, directions can become clear, paths may converge as we all move peacefully, and respectfully in the same direction-forward.

Face the truths-our nation’s truths, our personal truths, and with clear consciences, we may engage in productive conversations framed by a reciprocal dialogue, active listening skills and a desire to broaden our cultural lens. We can thus begin to forge a new path into a brighter future in a democracy shaped by the vision of a collaborative called “We, The People”… united in mission… “in order to form a more perfect union….”!

No more excuses, implicit bias or immaculate perceptions. No more US vs. THEM! We cannot control the world. We can only control ourselves. So, control yourself! We cannot color the world. The world is naturally populated with a beautiful spectrum of hues, shades and colors, and people, too. We MUST appreciate and find awe in their beauty. We MUST not divide and conquer. We MUST conquer our fears…  to live and thrive in a diverse society. Together we stand or divided we fall! Enough falling, folks. We are heading towards global destruction. Name-calling, cultural, religious and gender insensitivity, represent classic ignorance. Implicit bias and blind prejudice should not characterize the way we create positive change!

Implicit, my as..! We have no more excuses in an information-driven society! The next generation of leaders will not respect their elders-us- until we show evidence of growth, strength and a sincere belief in our individual and collective capacity to pursue success by  our individual merits, on our honor, without rigging the system. They will know, even if they never admit it out loud, that we cheated our way to the top. We spread implicit bias around and weren’t brave enough to live up to the U.S. Constitution,  in order to live the American Dream. Wake up, everybody! You must learn a new way to think before you can master a new way to be!

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