Posted on May 8, 2018

Before the Next Videotaped Starbucks Disaster, Everyone Should Take Implicit Bias Training

Derrick Johnson, USA Today, May 8, 2018

Everyone should get tested for implicit bias, and if you’re a public official or receiving public dollars — it should be mandatory. It’s just a matter of time before another black person is abused, arrested, or shot dead for flying, golfing, driving, walking or drinking coffee “while black.”

We know that in another week, black Twitter will once again be enraged by another disturbing video of a black woman in Waffle House getting body-slammed to the floor by police, only to see a white man who killed four people and wounded four more at a Tennessee Waffle House brought in by police without the use of excessive force. Then there’s Starbucks.


{snip} At the same time, we ask why is our society continually placing training on unconscious and implicit bias into a red box that says “break only in case of emergency,” when we know it’s just a matter of time before another incident is caught on video and made public?

We know soon enough there’ll be another young black man lost on his way to school, shot at just for asking for directions. Or another Stephon Clark, an unarmed father killed by eight bullets in his back and shot at 20 times by Sacramento police.


One thing is clear, America still remains very uneasy with black people, especially black men. {snip} African Americans will be charged more for a vehicle than whites, or steered toward subprime loans, or stopped by the police at a rate higher than that of whites, despite being less likely than whites to have weapons or drugs.


“For police, this tendency to implicitly dehumanize black boys was correlated with their likelihood of having a record reflecting more use-of-force instances with blacks than other races.”

Kirwan additionally found in another study that “the majority of test takers were more likely to implicitly associate images of weapons with black faces than white faces.”

How do we explain that implicit bias is a real thing?

While the United States has a very long history with explicit bias and state-sponsored racism, {snip}.


Often called unconscious bias, it exists in how we process information on a subconscious level. Our brain constantly seeks shortcuts in dealing with the billions of stimuli we encounter daily, and we put people and things into groups, unaware that we are actually doing this or that these unconscious biases are actually affecting our behavior.

We think this person looks more trustworthy or more like a leader, while the guy over there looks shifty. It doesn’t matter if we’re wrong because deep down we know we’re right. We don’t have to be a scientist to get this, just willing to get tested, and the resources to do this already exist.

There’s the Harvard implicit association test (IAT), which more than 6 million people have taken, with varying levels of unexpected bias being revealed.

The NAACP is calling for an expansion of the movement to demand mandatory testing for implicit bias, particularly for officials paid with public dollars. For major corporations, implicit bias training must become a part of corporate responsibility rather than always as a response to video-taped intolerance.


[Editor’s Note: The author is the president and CEO of the NAACP.]