Prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future, and renders the present inaccessible. – Unknown
The attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner. These biases, which encompass both favorable and unfavorable assessments, are activated involuntarily and without an individual’s awareness or intentional control.
A common manifestation of implicit bias is microaggression. These are sometimes subtle offenses towards people based on race, gender, ethnicity and other traits that serve as a basis for discrimination.
Biases have real world implications in classrooms, courtrooms, hospitals, and the workplace — and this is not an exhaustive list. We all have biases and how aware we are of them can make the difference between exacerbating racism or disrupting it. In academia, if we’re serious about inclusiveness, we need to minimize the biases that affect recruitment and retention of faculty, staff, and students and we need to provide equitable opportunity in the classroom.
First, we need to acknowledge implicit biases exist and are devastating to organizational culture. Second, we need to identify our biases and break old habits while recreating new ones. Third, we must identify biases playing out around us and have the courage to correct them, even if it is uncomfortable.
Move from Intentions to Action
Act by studying and understanding the issues and concepts to the point where you are able to explain it to others.
Act by examining yourself. Identify attitudes and behaviors you need to change and practice embodying those changes consistently and persistently until you have formed new habits and adopted a more inclusive mindset.
Act by teaching what you have learned to others through conversation, training, and coaching. Focus on changing the attitudes and practices of others and enforcing inclusive culture through policy.
- Learn to recognize it.
- Understand what you’re seeing, so you can apply the appropriate mitigation strategy.
- Interrupt, mitigate or stop it when you see or hear about it. (see “Cracking the Codes” video above)
- Debiasing takes consistent work and acute self-awareness.
Manage microaggression incidents under different circumstances.
- When you are the target, assess the situation. How do you know the person; can you approach them to address what happened. Can you talk about the incident with others? Practice self-care to minimize the effect of internalizing these incidents.
- When you are a bystander, be an ally. Speak for yourself as someone who is against what you see rather than speaking on behalf of the target.
- When you are the microaggressor, be open, be humble, be corrected. Apologize. Take responsibility for ignorance (or malintent) and commit to changing your ways through education, self-awareness, mindfulness and mitigation.
- Educate others by providing ongoing, periodic implicit bias training — whether it be formal, outsourced, self-presented. Consider partnering with professional (e.g. HR) or academic subject matters on campus.
- Review decision-making processes to reduce unnecessary subjectivity.
- Analyze decision-making bodies (committees, working groups, leadership teams) to determine if implicit bias influenced the composition of those bodies.
- Consider critical technologies in use in your area or throughout the campus; could be designed with inherent biases?