Being Racist, Sexist, and Generally Discriminatory

‘I am racist and I am sexist, it’s just a matter of coming to terms with that idea.’

My project focuses on the nature and effects of implicit biases. Implicit biases are those that we do not know we hold. Sitting farther away than a black person, putting the word ‘friendly’ on a woman’s recommendation (in place of other adjectives), getting a chill down one’s spine when an Arab person is noticed on your flight. These are all examples of the automatic responses and decisions that are affected by our implicit biases.

These biases work under the consciousness, and often we do not even know we have them. If we did know we had these types of biases we would want to denounce them, denying that we would ever react in such a way. Indeed, calling a person racist or sexist because of the actions they made were affected by implicit bias will normally illicit a defensive and horrified response.

It takes a while to get used to the idea that most if not all of us hold these implicit biases. Truly, I struggled with the idea that I was biased for some time, and, in a sense, I still would like to believe that I do not hold these biases, even though I know within reasonable doubt that I do. The quote above was said to me at a dinner party by someone who had not only read some articles on the subject but also had taken the IAT herself (the IAT is a test to gauge an individual’s implicit biases). That she was so accepting of this gave me mixed feelings. It gave me a sense of happiness to know that other people are aware and accepting of this phenomena, as spreading the word is the first step to overcoming it, however, I also felt a sense of shame that I still wanted to deny what she could so easily and openly profess, as many have done before.

Picture of a phase of the IAT test

It is hard for me to read some of the psychological studies and not get angry and upset at the fact that women and black people receive less recommendations for hire, less interviews, and lower starting pay on job offers (when the referee received the same CV with a different name on it) than their white, male counterparts simply because of factors wholly out of their control. However, I do not feel that being angry and upset is a bad thing, and, I do not think I want to lose it either. The worst outcome for me would be to become complacent about this project, and have it desensitize me on this issue.

My biggest hope I have moving forward is to be able to raise awareness and remain as passionate about this as I am now. Even as I write this post I hope people will read this and ask me about it, wanting to be informed. I hope people take the tests for themselves and seek change for themselves and especially for those that are marginalized. I am glad to have had the opportunity to research this so in depth, and to become as passionate as I have become; otherwise I may have remained unaware of how racist and sexist I have been, and hopefully do not continue to be.

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