A concept popular among corporate leaders, HR consultants and liberal politicians as an easy way to explain and resolve racism. Based on a flawed psychological test (the Implicit Association Test) which claims to reveal the subconscious biases that cause individuals to make discriminatory choices.
Until the Guardian published at the start of December 2018 its ‘findings’ of omnipresent, omnifocal ‘unconscious bias’ to explain BAME people’s lack of progression in the UK, it was hard to see how far and how deeply the ‘concept’ had penetrated. Now suddenly we see the new narrative: racism is covert not overt; it is psychological not social; it is individual not structural; it is subconscious not conscious. Hence, it effectively exonerates governments, institutions, organisations, even individuals, for it is unconscious, inevitable. But it can be remedied – through retraining and therapy for the individual. Unconscious bias is the child of neoliberalism.
…The emphasis on individual bias runs fundamentally against a materialist view of society. It puts the chicken before the egg. Do ‘white’ attitudes and biases create the discrimination that blights the lives of BAME people? Or are those biases being inculcated and constantly being redefined by the political culture around us, itself being reproduced by the laws of the land, the steers from the media, and in fact the larger processes of globalisation and its flipside austerity – which provide the wrapper for class and power relations?
—from Jenny Bourne, Unravelling the concept of unconscious bias, Institute of Race Relations.
[Leader of the UK Labour Party] Keir Starmer has said he will sign up for unconscious bias training amid criticism of his response to Black Lives Matter protests…
He added: “I think everybody should have unconscious bias training. I think it is important. There is always the risk of unconscious bias and just saying ‘oh well it probably applies to other people, not me’ is not the right thing to do.”
During an appearance by Starmer on LBC on Monday morning, a caller challenged him for describing the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement as a “moment” during a BBC Breakfast interview a week ago.
That turn of phrase, and his dismissal in the same interview of calls to “defund the police” and divert the money elsewhere as “nonsense”, led to accusations that Starmer was belittling the grievances of anti-racism campaigners.
—Guardian news story, 6 July 2020.
At Facebook, we believe that understanding and managing unconscious bias can help us build stronger, more diverse and inclusive organizations. These videos are designed to help us recognize our biases so we can reduce their negative effects in the workplace. Surfacing and countering unconscious bias is an essential step towards becoming the people and companies we want to be.
—Managing Unconscious Bias, set of instructional videos from Facebook