Thursday, March 16, 2017

Implicit Bias & Implicit Racial Associations

My colleagues and I are engaging in some professional learning about racial equity in the workplace. Our learning is focused on:
  • implicit bias
  • color blindness
  • microaggression
A 2016 article from Educational Researcher helped me think about the tremendous implications of implicit associations - including implicit bias and implicit racial associations - in education.

What is implicit bias?
Warikoo, Sinclair, Fei, and Jacoby-Senghor (2016) define implicit associations (or implicit biases) as ". . . the automatic cognitive associations people have between a given social group and certain feelings, concepts, and evaluations" (p. 508). Basically, implicit biases are preferences, attitudes, or beliefs that we don't even realize we have that can unconsciously impact our thoughts, words, and/or actions. In the case of implicit racial associations, the unconscious beliefs and resulting actions are related to race.

For example, an educator might explicitly state that a student's race does not impact that educator's attitude, belief, or evaluation of a student (or group of students) while still holding implicit bias toward particular racial groups. 

How do implicit racial associations impact education?
A 2007 study (cited by Warikoo, et al., p. 509) found that 68% of respondents had medium to large pro-White/anti-Black implicit associations. Warikoo and colleagues suggest that implicit racial associations:
  • Are highly pervasive
  • Are unlikely to correlate with explicitly stated beliefs
  • Impact educator-learner interactions in ways that negatively impact "students' sense of belonging, academic performance, and relationships with peers" (p. 510)
  • Impact interactions in particularly strong ways in situations where educators are making many high-stakes decisions very quickly
  • Impact policy creation at the school, district, state, and national levels
Maybe implicit racial bias or implicit racial associations could even "help explain why racial disparities in schools persist even when genuine, well-motivated efforts are made to reduce them" (p. 509).

What can we do?

  • Learn more and become aware of your implicit biases and implicit racial association. Resources are included at the end of this post.
  • Share your learning with colleagues, encouraging them to learn more.
  • Understand how implicit bias and implicit racial associations might be impacting your students, families, and community.
  • Take action.

Additional Resources about Implicit Bias:
  • Know Your Bias: Implicit Bias with Dr. Rachel Sumner

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