Understanding Implicit and Unconscious Bias
Updated: Dec 16, 2020
BY SOPHIA REBOLLEDO
“When we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard or welcomed. But when we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak.” - Audre Lorde
What is implicit and unconscious bias?
Implicit and unconscious bias refers to the attitudes towards a certain group of people or associated stereotypes with them that are activated involuntarily and without an individual’s awareness or intentional control. Implicit and unconscious bias encompass both favorable and unfavorable assessments, which affects society’s understandings, actions, and decisions without even realizing. By having implicit and unconscious bias, society has attitudes and stereotypes that can affect society’s understandings which can affect society’s actions and decisions without society even realizing as we divide the world into “in-groups” and “out-groups” in times of struggle.
How can people overcome their implicit or unconscious biases?
People can overcome their implicit or unconscious biases by acknowledging and understanding their own implicit or unconscious biases and their value and the role they play in their lives. The ability to become aware of unconscious bias is critical to have informed decision-making and is particularly critical to those whose decisions must embody fairness and justice. Many in society mistake being biased as being racist, but racism is a structure and bias is inherent and naturally occurring, in which society needs to be aware of its impact and structure during discussion. These unconscious associations are discoverable and malleable which can be changed by not having any more conversation about race but about biases to help people understand their own as we learn to understand ours. The importance of being interconnected and spending time with people different from us is crucial in which we can break down barriers of bias and give all people equal opportunities. As teens in our modern day society, it is essential to move forward collectively with the mindset that we all have biases as our future depends on, according to Leslie Russell, the “fund of necessary polarities that constitutes our differences, the capacity to arrive at a sum greater than its parts because, vulnerabilities exposed, we lean into and embrace what makes us different and, therefore, strong.” Once we acknowledge and understand our implicit and unconscious biases, we can generate more conversation to surface the systems and structures of the oppressions of racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, xenophobia, and transphobia and dismantle them.
To deepen your understanding, check out these resources:
Quiz to surface your possible implicit and unconscious biases:
Race on the Brain: What Implicit Bias Gets Wrong About the Struggle for Racial Justice
written by Jonathan Khan
An Introduction to Implicit Bias: Knowledge, Justice, and the Social Mind written by Erin