Are you racist? Probably

A fascinating article over at Vox makes a pretty compelling argument that racism is alive and well in our hearts and minds.

Most people can identify explicit racism: in Australia that seems to manifest itself with racist rants on public transport, the ‘White Australia’ policy or the Liberal and Labor parties position on ‘boat people’.

Implicit racism is a little more difficult to identify and unfortunately more difficult to eradicate. Basically it amounts to thoughts that you don’t realise that you have; stereotypes and shortcuts that enable you to make and draw connections.

Everyone has some element of implicit bias, though not everyone needs to be implicitly racist. For example, if I was chatting to a guy at a bar and he said he was from Melbourne High School (my former college) I’d probably assume that he was likely to be smarter than if he’d said “Scotch College”.

That’s a rather benign example – though even that example has implications for job recruitment – but it’s fair to say that implicit racism can be more problematic and has important economic and social implications.

Consider for example, the fact that having an African-American sounding name makes it more difficult to find a job even when qualifications, education and experiences are accounted for.

A test over at Project Implicit shows that 83 per cent of people are implicitly racist – that is they have a preference whether slight, moderate or strong for one race over another.Naturally I was curious about where I stood on this. I’ve long been exposed to different cultures – a natural byproduct of attending Melbourne High School – and to this day a majority of my friends originate from countries or cultures that might be considered ‘exotic’ to white Australia.

For example, a couple of months ago I proposed to my Chinese girlfriend; two of my groomsmen are almost certainly going to be of African and Indian descent. I have friends from South Africa and Germany, from Poland and New Zealand. I don’t even have a problem with Poms. My first girlfriend was a mix of Mexican and Spanish and lived in the American south.

At Project Implicit you can take a range of tests to identify implicit bias across a variety of areas. I decided to take the one that tries to identify implicit bias between African-Americans and European Americans – or black versus white.The test works a little like a child’s videogame and asks you to place pictures and words into two categories. It takes about five minutes to complete.

My result was:

Your data suggest little to no automatic preference between European American and African American.

I should also reveal that about a year ago I did the test and it revealed a slight preference for African Americans over European Americans. That position is held by only 12 per cent of respondents (which I’d assume correlates quite strongly with the number of African-Americans who take the test).

I wasn’t really surprised by that earlier result and I’m not surprised by my more recent result. As I noted earlier I’ve long been exposed to different cultures and that has no doubt impacted my decisions and thought processes as an adult.

Sitting the test can be somewhat daunting. Many of us take pride in being socially progressive; being open minded to other cultures, races and sexualities. This test could potentially be a punch in the gut but it seems like a punch worth taking, particularly if you care passionately about eradicating racism not only in public but in our hearts and minds as well.

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