The pervasive notion of “implicit bias” reared its spurious head once again during the recent confirmation hearings for Merrick Garland. Sen. John Neely Kennedy (R-LA) pressed Garland for a more succinct definition of the term, but to no avail. Garland insisted on its merits but refused to offer any further insights on how he would apply the supposed litmus test for prejudice as Attorney General.
Over the last decade or so, the Left has promoted implicit bias — also known as “unconscious bias” — as an effective metric to gauge all manner of prejudice. They argue the concept is rooted in sound science and hard data. As a result, widespread training protocols are now being implemented and enforced all across our nation.
Regardless of Garland’s posturing, implicit bias needs to be abandoned as nothing more than junk science tearing at the already threadbare fabric of our society.
What exactly is implicit bias?
At its root, implicit bias is an inherently nebulous assertion that all manner of prejudice is deeply embedded in our subconscious whether we are aware of it or not. The concept draws from critical race theory and assumes that systemic racism and all aspects of privilege are fundamentally true.
Online progressive curricula such as Racial Equity Tools (RET) state that “[exposure] to structural and cultural racism has enabled stereotypes and biases to penetrate deep into our psyches.” Consequently, implicit bias “serves to justify racist policies, practices and behaviors that persist in mainstream culture and narratives.”
RET goes on to explain that prejudice has some supposed neurological connection. As such, individuals can only shed such bigotry through a process of “debiasing” wherein “individual neural associations can be changed through specific practices” and protocols.
Echoing RET, The National Equity Project claims that “it is critical that any learning about implicit bias includes both clear information about the neuroscience of bias and the context of structural racism that gave rise to and perpetuates inequities and harmful racial biases.”
Perhaps the most fatiguing aspect of implicit bias is that it’s being promoted as some serious scientific endeavor established by objective facts. As a result, it continues to go largely unchallenged.
Why implicit bias is junk science
Bluntly put, the idea that implicit bias is somehow rooted in scientific rigor is patently bunk. It ought to be relegated to the trash alongside craniometry, cold fusion, and the infamous Oxford Capacity Analysis. Unfortunately, it remains a growing cultural force backed by corporations and academia.
Writing for The Cut, Jesse Singal argues that “[p]erhaps no new concept from the world of academic psychology has taken hold of the public imagination more quickly and profoundly in the 21st century than implicit bias.” This phenomenon is rooted in the “blockbuster success of the so-called implicit association test [IAT], which purports to offer a quick, easy way to measure how implicitly biased individual people are.”
The IAT is heralded by academia as some final and objective measure for prejudice. Singal notes that the IAT is “frequently written about by some of the top social psychologists and science journalists in the country” and is considered “the most sophisticated way to talk about the complicated, fraught subject of race in America.”
Singal, however, eviscerates the notion that the IAT can provide any meaningful and objective measure for prejudice, especially on any scientific level:
“Unfortunately, none of that is true. A pile of scholarly work, some of it published in top psychology journals and most of it ignored by the media, suggests that the IAT falls far short of the quality-control standards normally expected of psychological instruments. The IAT, this research suggests, is a noisy, unreliable measure that correlates far too weakly with any real-world outcomes to be used to predict individuals’ behavior — even the test’s creators have now admitted as such…There’s also a case to be made that the IAT went viral not for solid scientific reasons, but simply because it tells us such a simple, pat story about how racism works and can be fixed: that deep down, we’re all a little — or a lot — racist, and that if we measure and study this individual-level racism enough, progress toward equality will ensue.”
In 2017, The Chronicle reported that researchers analyzed decades of data on the IAT, including hundreds of studies from close to 100,000 participants, and found “that the correlation between implicit bias and discriminatory behavior appears weaker than previously thought.” The researchers also found “that there is very little evidence that changes in implicit bias have anything to do with changes in a person’s behavior.”
A piece for Quillette by Jonathan Church points out the utter lack of sophistication and virulent dogmatism from the likes of DiAngelo that run completely counter to any scientific enterprise:
“Scientists themselves can become so wedded to their theories that they give short shrift to reasonable objections that may arise from their audience, especially audiences not trained in their discipline. In fact, it appears that DiAngelo and her disciples have become so focused on white ‘illiteracy’ in the conversation about race that they are prepared to sacrifice the scientific method on the altar of fighting ‘institutional racism.’”
What’s most fatiguing about implicit bias are the circular arguments and syllogistic contortions from those who insist on its scientific merits. Take this hopeless bit of reasoning from Scientific American:
“The IAT is a measure, and it doesn’t follow from a particular measure being flawed that the phenomenon we are attempting to measure is not real. Drawing that conclusion is to commit the Divining Rod Fallacy: just because a rod doesn’t find water doesn’t mean there’s no such thing as water. A smarter move is to ask, ‘What does the other evidence show?’”
The authors’ fatiguing assertion of a logical fallacy to bolster their claim is, in fact, its own deductive fallacy of sorts. In effect, the authors are insisting that because racism exists, the IAT is a sound measure of it. They even readily admit that the IAT is inaccurate, stating that “[t]he stability of the test is low…And the correlation between a person’s IAT scores and discriminatory behavior is often small.” Instead of accepting their own findings, they double down on its inherent shortcomings and false outcomes.
The issue here is one of causality which the IAT — again, by the authors’ own admission — fails to demonstrate. At best, it barely registers a correlative value and that’s being generous. Again, they clearly state it’s an unstable and “flawed” metric.
As though the authors can foretell such scrutiny they simply resort to dogmatism, arguing that “[t]here is a mountain of evidence — independent of any single test — that implicit bias is real” without, of course, providing such evidence outside of indulging a hopelessly circular argument.
What seems to be a far more accurate assessment is that many in the scientific community and academia lean so far Left that they simply wish to believe the IAT to be an accurate way to measure prejudice. Such a conclusion is as tragic as it is ironic: their own biases disallow them from objectively understanding a hopelessly inaccurate protocol meant to gauge bias.
How implicit bias training is being implemented all across our nation
Implicit bias training first made headlines in 2018 when Starbucks announced it would shut down all its stores after an alleged racial incident occurred at one of its locations in Philadelphia.
Time reported that “[m]ore than 175,000 Starbucks employees participated in the mandatory racial bias education program” that “placed an emphasis on encouraging some employees to become ‘color brave’ instead of ‘color blind.’
Most recently, Coca-Cola reportedly employed Robin DiAngelo’s bias training protocols to inculcate its thousands of employees. According to Evita Duffy of The Federalist, this included such egregious pronouncements as “try to be less white” and that “[n]othing exempts any white person from the forces of racism.”
Duffy concluded that DiAngelo “implies that white people are, by their very skin color, oppressive, defensive, arrogant, apathetic, and so forth.”
In 2018, DiAngelo told USA Today that “[w]hite people are bad at admitting implicit bias and therefore good at denying the realities of racism.” Ironically enough, black scholars have rightly accused DiAngelo of racism for “openly infantilizing black people” and — by extension — other minorities as well. Of course, the Left refuses to acknowledge her particular brand of prejudice.
“DiAngelo has done diversity training for businesses for more than 20 years and previously said she has experienced hostility from white people when talking about race during her training. Her White Fragility book discusses the response white people have when their skin tone is mentioned. She argues that ‘wokeness’ also doesn’t deal with the problem of race, as it helps to avoid questioning one’s own unconscious racist bias.”
Implicit bias is rooted in dogma, not science
Parsed of sophistry and academic hubris, implicit bias and its various offshoots, including “antiracism,” have far more to do with the rote dogma one associates with fanaticism. More than anything else, the adherents and advocates of implicit bias and antiracism echo the zealous trappings of nothing more than a cult.
One is not even allowed to question the very tenets and foundations of implicit bias and antiracism without immediate accusations of either being racist or suffering “internalized racism.”
Black scholar and professor, John McWhorter, elaborates on this extremism in an essay for The Daily Beast:
“To say one is not to question is not to claim that no questions are ever asked. The Right quite readily questions Antiracism’s tenets. Key, however, is that among Antiracism adherents, those questions are tartly dismissed as inappropriate and often, predictably, as racist themselves. The questions are received with indignation that one would even ask them, with a running implication that their having been asked is a symptom of, yes, racism’s persistence.”
McWhorter goes on the argue that implicit bias training, the mantras surrounding “antiracism,” and the constant proselytizing by the likes of Robin DiAngelo and Ibram X. Kendi signal a type of religious fervor with “White Privilege” being a corrupted, secular version of Original Sin though, of course, without any hope of atonement or salvation. Instead, “White Privilege” is a sin relegated to perpetuity wherein “to be white is to be born with the stain of unearned privilege” and that no matter the penance in the form of “unbiasing” or “antiracism”, one “will always harbor the Privilege nevertheless.”
Far from bringing us together, the notion of implicit bias fosters even more antagonism in our already deeply polarized nation. It pits us against one another by reducing each and every one of us to our skin color, and then confines us to it without any hope of transcending such mere superficialities.
In fact, all implicit bias training does is endorse the most exhausting and troubling aspects of critical race theory and progressivism. It then disallows any substantive arguments against it by virtue of its very circularity. If you disagree with its methods and findings, you’re automatically guilty of prejudice or “internalized racism” in some hopelessly Kafkaesque manner.
Worse, it is growing into a kind of zealotry masquerading as some scientific finding. We must simply call this what it is: Outright and utter madness for all Americans, regardless of creed or color.
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.