Implicit bias isn’t a new topic, but recent media reports highlighting specific instances have illustrated the importance of recognizing how it affects our communities.
For example, two black men were sitting at a table in a Philadelphia Starbucks and hadn’t made a purchase. Although people often linger in the chain without buying anything, a manager called the police when they refused to leave because they were waiting for an acquaintance. The police arrested the men and led them out in handcuffs.
No charges were filed, but the manager lost her job, and the company later required all employees to receive training on implicit bias.
College campuses aren’t immune to implicit bias either. Think about the assumptions, consciously and subconsciously, you make about students and coworkers on a daily basis. Implicit bias can also have negative connotations when we make assumptions about people that help create or maintain stereotypes.
By not recognizing our implicit biases, we miss out on opportunities to develop lifelong friendships, networking opportunities, and career advancement options. In other words, we’re not living our lives to the fullest.
Implicit bias refers to the beliefs and attitudes that affect our understanding, actions and decisions in an unconscious way. It can help us decide who is friend or foe, or determine whether a situation is dangerous or just coincidental. Unlike explicit bias, where individuals are fully aware of their prejudices and are overt in their attitudes about others, implicit bias stems from subtle cognitive processes that are developed through experiences – whether actual or perceived.
It can also have negative connotations when we make assumptions about people that help create or maintain stereotypes, like assuming a minority student must be an athlete or was only accepted to college because of affirmative action.
We must recognize and acknowledge our implicit biases or they can hinder our interactions with people from different ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations or gender identities, races or even political affiliations.
Even those who belong to marginalized groups can show implicit bias due to its pervasiveness. That’s why it’s important for everyone to check his or her awareness and recognize implicit bias and its impact.
As a result of implicit bias, people often exhibit microaggressions – subtle comments or actions that unconsciously show prejudice against marginalized communities.
Some microaggressions look like compliments on the surface, but are actually jabs. For example, telling a gay man, “But you don’t act gay,” makes the assumption that gay men must present a certain way. Or saying “Wow, I never would have guessed you used to be a woman,” to a trans man. Intentional or not, they can invalidate, demean or communicate to people that they are lesser human beings, and they show a lack of awareness.
People in marginalized communities experience microaggressions on a daily basis. Hearing negative messages over and over again begins to have a psychological impact on those who hear them. Microaggressions are like a thousand paper cuts – they hurt.
Above all, we all could do a better job at recognizing our implicit biases and microaggressions – by doing this, we can make sure every campus across the country and world is an even safer and more inclusive place to live and learn.
Dr. Tammy Hodo, the author behind the Implicit Bias and Microaggressions course, is an assistant sociology professor at the University of North Florida and an expert in implicit bias and microagressions.
She uses the critical race theory as framework for her research. Her teaching and research focus on the experiences of minorities in academia.
We are excited to announce the release of our new Implicit Bias and Microaggressions Awareness course in the SafeColleges Training System. This course, written and developed by Dr. Tammy Hodo, is designed to help faculty and staff gain an understanding of implicit bias and microaggressions, the science behind these concepts, and how to prevent imposing them on others.