Chris Bridges of the Equal Justice Society and Program Manager of the National Implicit Bias Network was quoted extensively in a new article by Jesse Washington on ESPN’s The Undefeated reporting on a new poll revealing that unconscious racial bias has been a major barrier in the lives of Black people and posing as much or more of a problem than structural racism and individual discrimination.
“Folks have the ability to kind of compartmentalize their racism,” said Chris Bridges, program manager of the National Implicit Bias Network, which seeks to dismantle legal and social justifications for racial discrimination. “They will say, ‘I’m not racist, I don’t even have any Black people in my neighborhood,’ but then make decisions at their board meetings or at their school board about actions that negatively impact Black lives.”
“Decisions are being made without the label of being a racist, or without Black voices being in those rooms,” he said. “When we start talking about increasing the conversation around implicit bias, that’s one strategy for trying to help folks understand that you’re actually having a negative impact on people who look like me, even though you are saying outwardly that you’re not a racist.”
Bridges was not surprised that most Black people who experienced discrimination said white people treated them that way not unconsciously, but on purpose. “That’s the nuance and the dance that explicit racism does with implicit biases,” he said.
This is particularly true today, when overtly racist statements such as “don’t hire a Black person” are clearly taboo. While some believe racism ended when separate water fountains were outlawed and Black people weren’t forced to sit in the back of the bus, others look into the attitudes of people who don’t – or won’t – recognize their own biases.
Bridges said that he recently had an experience walking through a friend’s condo garage when a white woman demanded to know why he was there. Was that unconscious or conscious bias? “It was some of both,” he said. “Oftentimes they’re interwoven into each other.
“In the outwardly, obviously racist society that we currently live in, implicit bias sometimes operates as the glue that holds that system together.”