Michele Blood, PopZette, May 10, 2018
Is “implicit bias testing and training” really the right approach to improving race relations in this country — and how does it work, anyway?
Derrick Johnson, president and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), said on Tuesday, “Implicit bias training should be the norm, not just a crisis response strategy,” in a media advisory published by the organization. An extended op-ed outlining Johnson’s point of view appeared in USA Today.
But best-selling author and radio-show host Kevin Jackson took issue with all of this: “Anybody that’s going to teach about bias or white privilege or some other nonsense … [they] are nothing but leftists who are the most divisive people in this country. Americans are sick of them,” he said.
“This is an industry. It’s a moneymaking, multi-trillion-dollar industry that I wrote a book about, called ‘Race-Pimping.’ This ‘[implicit] bias’ is nonsense,” he added.
There’s a problem, though: Scientific testing has revealed that implicit bias training has no prophylactic effect on behavior at all. In theory, implicit bias tests measure the extent to which a person harbors unconscious racist thoughts and attitudes. The idea is that by becoming aware of these unknown biases, people will behave in a more egalitarian manner. The most widely used implicit bias test is Harvard’s Implicit Bias Test (IAT); that’s the same test Johnson suggested in the NAACP media advisory and op-ed.
Yet this doesn’t pan out. A 2017 meta-analysis (a study that mathematically analyzes the collective results of past studies) revealed that such training has no effect on actual behavior. The test also does not meaningfully predict behavior. A 2016 meta-analysis concluded, “There is also little evidence that the IAT can meaningfully predict discrimination, and we thus strongly caution against any practical applications of the IAT that rest on this assumption.”