Net Net: Promoting innovation and managing change
Net Net: Promoting innovation and managing change

NetNet Discovers an Implicit Racial Prejudice

Civil rights march on Washington, DC
Universal History Archive | Getty Images

Earlier today I learned that I might have a slight racial bias.

I was reading something or another on the Internet—I forget exactly what, but it was deep down the Internet rabbit hole—when I found myself on the Project Implicit website.

Project Implicit runs a whole bunch of tests for unconscious bias called Implicit Association Tests. The tests basically see how quickly you associate positive and negative words with names or faces of people from various racial groups. (You can take the tests here.)

"It turns out that more than 80 percent of all those who have ever taken the test end up having pro-white associations, meaning that it takes them measurably longer to complete answers when they are required to put good words in the ‘Black’ category than when they are required to link bad things with black people,” Malcolm Gladwell explains in his book "Blink."

Gladwell took the test himself—a number of times—and it kept telling him he had a “moderate preference” for whites. It turns out that 48 percent of African-Americans who have taken the test indicate a preference for whites.

Only 12 percent of all test takers have a slight, moderate, or strong preference for African-Americans.

This is what made my results so surprising.

“Your data suggest a slight automatic preference for African-American compared to European America,” Project Implicit told me.

This made me curious. So I took another test for prejudice with respect to Arab Muslims. This one measures whether or not you have a preference for “other people” over Arab Muslims. I scored no preference at all.

I have no idea what to make of this. Perhaps its a result of my basic contrarian instincts.


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