As explained in Blink by Gladwell and Payne, unconscious discrimination is a type of discrimination that is very hard to recognize. We have all heard about explicit discrimination, which can take two forms: the individual level and the institutional level. At the individual level, people openly like. This can be seen in the case of bias hiring when an employer tells a postulant; “I will not hire you because you are a female. ” At the institutional level, one of the most striking examples of discrimination occurs with the Nuremberg Laws in Nazi Germany.
These laws restricted the rights of German citizens that were Jews. People working in the Nazi institutions had to enforce these discriminatory laws even if they disagreed with them. By discriminating against Jews, they were only “doing their job and following orders”. Implicit discrimination is more subtle and we will look more particularly at the unconscious form of this kind of discrimination. As seen in Blink, The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell, unconscious discrimination can be positive or negative.
The election of Warren Harding is described by Gladwell as an error, as he proceeded to explain that President Harding was elected based more on his looks and personality than his competencies and abilities to govern the country. Most historians agreed that he was one f the worst presidents in history. Malcom Gladwell “thinks that there are facts about people’s appearance- their size or shape or color or sex- that can trigger a very similar set of powerful associations” and Harding’s election was obviously an example of this.
Many people looked at him and saw how handsome and distinguished-looking he was and jumped to the conclusion that he had t be a man of courage, intelligence and integrity. They didn’t dig below the surface. Gladwell stated that “the Harding error is the dark side of rapid cognition. It is at the root of a good deal of prejudice and discrimination”. Unconscious or implicit association plays a big part in our behavior and belief as the Implicit Association Test (IAT) reveals.
This test is based on the fact that our minds make quicker connections between pairs that are already related than we do with paired ideas that are unfamiliar. I decided to take the Race IAI test to see what the result would be. Firstly I was asked what my attitude towards blacks and whites was, and coming from a mixed background it was obvious for me to answer that they were equal. I took the test and immediately had an uneasy feeling about it. When the conclusions came I had, as did more than eighty percent of those who had taken the test, pro-white association.
The test rated me as having a “moderate automatic preference for whites. ” These results were astonishing to me and allowed me to understand better what unconscious discrimination was. In my brain the connection between black and good was harder to make than white and good. If a person coming from a mixed background like myself, had difficulties associating African Americans with good, and hence could be bias, I began to wonder how other races viewed African Americans.
Even though very revealing, this example is just a test, and doesn’t have significant repercussions, but let’s take a real life justice example. Amadou Diallo, a 23-year old African man was shot and killed by four New York City Police Department officers. They fired a total of 41 shots at this unarmed man. In this case, one could ask one’s self if racial profiling was used and to what extent Diallo’s color played against him. The family filed a lawsuit against the City Of New York and the officers and won 3 million dollars.
The event gendered social psychology researches notably one directed by Eberhard in 2004 which revealed that police officers are quicker to decide to shoot an unarmed black person rather than an unarmed white one. All these findings set ethical problems as problems of justice. How could we have justice if even mixed people, non-white or African Americans are biased? How could we write the rules for a society if trained officers face unconscious discrimination issues? How can the rules be written so that the ethical problem that is unconscious discrimination would become a thing of the past?
From very early ages, dark colors have been associated with bad, and light or brightness with good. It is something that is deeply entrenched in our society and culture, so in order to change the mentalities and habits, children should, at a young age, be exposed to examples reinforcing or teaching them that good and bad are not a matter of color. Discrimination is instilled in our kids’ everyday lives just as seen in most cartoons or kids’ programs: the “good guy” is often white and the “bad guy” is darker. What is priming?
The online glossary of the American Psychological Association defines it as “the advantage conferred by prior exposure to a word or situation”. I believe that at an elementary level, kids should have some classes and videos teaching them that all human beings are equal and cannot be judged by their color. Just like the propaganda advertising can influence us to buy and like a new products, this “race advertising” would encourage kids to be less biased and to treat everyone with the same respect independently of their race or religion.
This reasoning takes from the affirmative action programs that helped thousands of women access jobs and levels of responsibilities never experienced before. I truly believe that if at a young age, children are exposed to more diversity, this exposure would result in less unconscious discrimination later in their lives. Schools should have race and religious diversity and if we could succeed in mixing the population, children could learn to live together at a very young age. Now, let’s consider the hiring process.
Is an interviewer named “John” more likely to give an edge to a job candidate also named “John? ” Recent academic research suggests that the answer is yes but how does this type of unconscious discrimination affect a company’s ability to develop a merit-based model. Auren Hoffman and psychologist Brett Pelham conducted a study at the University of Buffalo and found the following groundbreaking results: “In hiring, positive gut feelings can lead to decisions based on superficial similarities to the decision maker, including those that may not be lawfully considered, such as age, race, and national origin.
Equally importantly, they can lead to decisions based on a host of other irrelevant factors, such as hair color. ” Hoffman concludes by stating that such decisions are bad business practices that can confer competitive disadvantage. T o remedy these injustices, I believe that pictures, names, and gender should be blanked from resumes, giving equal chances to everyone. Blind hiring could be a good solution to unconscious discrimination in the hiring process. Often the composition of an orchestra is a good example of gender discrimination.
In most orchestras, brass instruments are played by men. In this specific example, during the music auditions, a screen could be put up so the players’ gender would be impossible to identify. These methods implemented would firstly, force integration and expose the problems of unconscious discrimination and bring it to a state of awareness. Secondly, these methods would mix the population and undoubtedly change certain discriminatory practices, such as can be seen where it has become normal nowadays for women to have the right to vote, whereas before it was not possible.
As we have discussed above, discrimination takes many different forms and even occurs without being a deliberate action on the part of the discriminatory party. Obviously the effects of discrimination are widespread and in some cases can be very devastating. As I mentioned before though, although challenging, it is not impossible to address the issues presented through discrimination. Obviously there has to be the acknowledgement that it is occurring, and after this acknowledgment steps can be taken, some of which I have suggested, to alleviate or eradicate the problem altogether. Some rules can be implemented to lighten or fix the problem.
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