Carrie Clark and Alka Sehgal-Cuthbert dissect “Implicit Bias Testing”.
The concept of implicit bias, which in current public discussion means white bias, is at the heart of almost all anti-racist initiatives that institutions including the British Museum, businesses, universities and schools, as well as some trade unions. The concept shifts the burden of proof of the existence of racism from social systems of standards and procedures to individual psychology. And this is one reason why people might find it hard to question: deep down we all know we have our own biases even if we don’t always admit it.
But: having a bias does not mean we act on that bias.
If you watched the (in)famous Channel 4 Documentary, The School that Tried to End Racism, you will have seen that there is a supposedly scientific test called the “Harvard Implicit Bias Test” that is supposed to prove the link between unconscious biases against black people and real-life racism, even if people are consciously anti-racist or believe in equality among different ethnicities.
But: if a racist society exists before any individual is born, how can individual biases be responsible for something that was there before birth? If bias is something mysteriously inherited across generations, then how is it that Britain no longer takes part in chattel slavery? And how come, today unlike the past, Britain’s citizens, across the classes, now includes black people? The premise is illogical.
The Harvard Implicit Bias test sounds like it must be truthful – after all, Harvard is one of the top universities in the world. But it is seriously flawed.