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  • Denise

Implicit Bias

"Implicit bias refers to the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner" (Find it here). Implicit bias is often the product of social and cultural conditioning. This means that we unconsciously hold ideas and beliefs about other groups--and sometimes our own--without even realizing it. More often than not, our implicit bias clouds our judgement.

It is common for us to notice, act and respond negatively to that which is different. For instance, upon hearing a group of international students speaking Chinese in the common room during study hall I became annoyed with their volume level. However, I had to stop and ask myself: Am I noticing this behavior because it is different? Does it just sound louder because I don't understand Chinese? The answer was yes.

In schools that are predominantly white, it is common for white teachers to call out the behavior of students of color even when white students are doing the same exact thing. Somehow when a brown face speaks out of turn it is "disrespectful" and "rude", but when a white student does so, it is "normal".

Not only does the dominant culture call out the non-dominant culture more often, but words are used to describe the non-dominant culture that would never be used to describe white students. Recently, after a misunderstanding with a teacher, a kid of color was described as "eyes bulging". It was also stated that he was "unable to read" a textbook.

After a student of color gives a presentation, a teacher may be quick to "compliment" the student by saying how eloquent they spoke. However, the message you may be giving is "Wow, I didn't expect you to speak so well. You don't sound like you do when you talk to your friends." Similarly, after a female student gives a presentation, a teacher may "compliment" her by saying that she commanded the attention of the room. It is our implicit bias that tells us a male will command the attention of a room when a female probably will not.

Before you give a compliment, stop and think about whether it really is a compliment. If you are saying it to a kid of color, would you say it to a white kid and still consider it a compliment? If you are saying something to a female, would you still consider it a compliment if it was directed to a male?

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