Advocacy & News

Yes, It’s Racist: A Look At Implicit Bias

Since the video of the arrest of two Black men in a Philadelphia Starbucks – for no good reason – hit social media, and then the news, the term ‘implicit bias’ has buzzed about.

I first saw the video, like many people, via the Twitter account of Melissa DePino who recorded and tweeted the incident as it happened.

Seeing the police handcuff and arrest these two men was disturbing, especially given the eyewitness accounts that they’d done nothing wrong, and especially as any number of white people, including myself, have never faced this kind of treatment in a similar situation – treatment which, I have to say, these two guys handled with the most extraordinary amount of poise.

Implicit bias, the unconscious attitudes and subsequent actions we have towards people from certain groups, has a deceptive duplicity to it. Many people will say they aren’t racist, or sexist, or ableist, homophobic etc, etc without realising the subtitles of how these attitudes and actions creep out. An example of this, which I’m embarrassed to admit, was even though I could see and hear that something unacceptable had happened to these two Black men in Starbucks, I briefly defaulted to making an excuse for it. I caught myself quickly, and don’t ever hold onto those perceptions, but implicit bias is something we all need to be aware of and challenge within ourselves and other people.

Listen to what Warriors Kamau Bell has to say in this video and let it sink in

The store manager involved in this particular incident no longer works there, the CEO of Starbucks, Kevin Johnson, has said he is implementing implicit (unconscious) racial bias training for staff and made an apology in person to the two men arrested – both valid responses to what happened – but we all need to check ourselves and do better. The idea that we put people through embarrassing, devaluing, hurtful, and even sometimes dangerous experiences because of implicit bias is worth tackling.

It’ll feel uncomfortable to really examine our ingrained patterns of thought, but that’s nothing compared to being on the receiving end of it because while implicit bias is unintentional, it actually has broader consequences … if we don’t do something about the quiet, internal existence of racism we can’t dismantle the systemic existence of racism.

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