Overt expressions of racism are mostly condemned in our society. When such overt expressions occur they are often quickly condemned as appalling or unacceptable. More problematic, though, are covert and subtle instances of racial prejudice that are less noticeable. Often they are unnoticed by those who commit the acts. Racism in the United States has been a part of our culture for four centuries. Therefore, it often goes unnoticed, even by those who may unintentionally manifest racist tendencies.
Researchers at Harvard University and The Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Ohio State University have been conducting research on racial bias for a number of years. They have developed an online survey instrument that is designed to help people understand what they call “Implicit Bias.” The instrument is called the IAT or Implicit Association Test. The test can be taken by anyone. The results are confidential. The IAT is intended to help people learn about their own racial biases.
Implicit Bias refers to unconscious attitudes or stereotypes that affect understanding. Implicit Bias is activated involuntarily. It is very subtle and often beyond our control. Implicit Bias stems from the social construction of white as normal in our culture. White has been the standard for normal for so long that even non-white people living in the US come to accept white as normal. According to researchers, people of color often unconsciously manifest preferences for “whiteness” because our culture has unfairly given preference to the white race for centuries. People who test completely free or almost free of implicit bias are extremely rare.
On Saturday, March 3, our Church and Society Committee will host a screening of the movie 13th. The movie title refers to the thirteenth amendment to the US Constitution and its connection to racial bias in America. There will also be a dinner and a panel discussion following the movie. In April, the congregation will be asked to read America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege and the Bridge to a New America” by Jim Wallis. As we engage one another in discussion about race in America I encourage you to go online and take the test for Implicit Bias. (Log on at https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/ )