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March 21, 2007

It's in all of us and I hate it

Writing about web page https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/uk/measureyourattitudes.html

My housemate isn’t a beacon of enlightened thought. He is, however, a very nice chap at heart and I know he believes that we should treat people equally regardless of their background. But he just took an online test that reveals he has bq. a moderate automatic preference for White British over Asian British.

This is not just any old online testing website. No Love Calculator to be found here. It forms part of Project Implicit, an academic project linked to some of the top institutions in the US. They admit the online test isn't perfect, but reading their FAQs reveals the perhaps obvious fact that although it only takes 5 minutes and is pretty simple, it is rather well thought through.

This test is not the only evidence of such bias either. The French charity SOS Racisme sent CVs identical in all but name to companies across France. Those sent out with typically French names had a much higher rate of positive responses than those without and I’m sure similar tests here would yield the same results. Yet, I don’t think this is indicative of conscious racism.

As Project Implicit is designed to demonstrate, this prejudice is so ingrained that it probably has a hold on the most ardent supporters of equality without them even knowing. Racism is about so much more than ill-thinking yobs shouting abuse at innocents. It’s about the preconceptions that we all have of other people.

Clearly, we can’t just kick these off, no matter how much we might want to. They pervade all parts of our society, from job interviews to Top Gear. What do we do then? Long term – I’m not sure. I hope they just slowly fade away, but at present, the opposite may well be happening. In the meantime, an awareness that the problem exists is a start. So that even if we have these prejudices against our will, we can very much consciously try to do our utmost to prevent it clouding our vision.

Go on, take the tests yourself.


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