WGVU donate banner

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

FacebookFlickrTwitterYouTubeLinkedIn
 
Public Media Catagories
PBS Link Create Link WorldView Link NPR Link Real Oldies Link wgvu
All Things Considered
WGVU Top Story

Unconscious Bias Can Result in Death


Chris McCarus

www.downtownpublications.com

June 4, 2014 | WGVU  For 150 years, Hope College symbolized the conservative part of the Dutch reformed movement. But last week, Hope teamed up with the Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance to focus on race and inclusion. This is in addition to the work they’ve been doing to help migrant workers, mainly latinos, who, for decades, have been coming to pick fruit on this side of the state.

Racism is not dead in America or Michigan. But what happens when someone tells a white guy like me: “you’re racist. Don’t try to deny it. You are.”

I’ll say “I’m not racist. I don’t see race. I’m colorblind.”

John A. Powell grew up in Detroit. He’s 67 now. He comes from America’s most prestigious universities including California Berkeley. He teaches law there. His new book is called Racing to Justice: Transforming Our Conceptions of Self and Other to Build and Inclusive Society.

Powell wandered around the lectern of Hope College chapel. 700 people were inside. He said having bias doesn’t make you bad.

“You’re not a bad person. I’m not a bad person. But bad things are happening. Kids are getting shot. People are being segregated in schools. How do we change that? We’re not saying you’re bad. But bad stuff is happening.”

Professor Powell says police who shoot innocent blacks are not necessarily racist. Many are black themselves. Here’s an exercise he does with the audience. It proves there’s a lot we can’t control.

“I’m going to ask you to shout out the colors as soon as you see them. You will some letters as well. I want you to ignore the letters. All I want you to do is say the colors.”

Powell showed words on a big screen one at a time. The word red was in red ink. The word black was in black ink. Then green appeared in red ink. Black in blue ink. Powell had asked the audience to say the colors not read the words. People got tripped up because the words were not written in the color of the word.

“I know it’s early in the morning. (laughs from the audience) So let me just talk to you about what just happened. I told you to ignore the letters. You can’t ignore the letters. Your unconscious is always on line. When you go to sleep at night you can’t turn it off.”

Implicit means any thing we are not conscious of. We are loaded with implicit bias.

Humans process 40 bits of information per second consciously. But 11 million bits per second unconsciously. Our unconscious doesn’t like blanks. So it fills them in. Powells’s word/color exercise shows the clash between the conscious and unconscious. It feels like our brains aren’t working right. Powell calls it cognitive depletion. The unconscious is social. It builds up associations through movies, literature, the internet and people you’ve had contact with since you were born. The unconscious affects everyone.

“When we find out we have these tensions it doesn’t make us racist or sexist. It means we’re reflecting the larger environment.”

So white guys like me feel we’re off the hook. But powell says we have a responsibility.

“When two things happen over and over again we build a neuro network over them. They become connected in the brain.”

For example, you see a mugshot of a black man. Conclusion? Black men are criminals. The connections we make are mainly social. They are unconscious.

“We may think that our goal here in Western Michigan and in our society is to treat everybody the same. But I would suggest to you that is not our goal. Our goal is to treat people fair. Our goal is to be inclusive. People are not situated the same within structures.”

A student in East Grand Rapids or West Bloomfield is unlikely to have witnessed violence or felt hunger like city a city student has. In the last U.S. Census, whites had 22 times more wealth than blacks. $110,000 compared to $5,000. Professor john powell might say start there.

“We need to pay attention to that difference. If we want to get people to the same outcome we can’t treat them all the same.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, one out of every three black men will go to prison in their lifetime. Perhaps millions will go because of unconscious bias.
 Listen    Download Audio File Download

More Mid-Day Features
Friday
U.S. Rep. Fred Upton discusses stopping the spread of Ebola
  October 17, 2014  |  WGVU  The House Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing Thursday focusing on the preventing the spread of Ebola in the United States. WGVU talks with U.S. Representative Fred Upton from Saint Joseph who chairs the committee.   
 Listen    Download Audio File Download
Brad Pitt in FURY plus four other movies opening today
  October 17, 2014  |  WGVU  Five big movies hitting theaters today, including Fury with Brad Pitt, Men, Women and Children directed by Jason Reitman, Book Of Life, an animated family flick, The Best Of Me based on a Nicholas Sparks novel and Pirates Code: The Adventures of Mickey Matson, a Michigan made movie...Ron Van Timmeran sits down with WGVU for the weekly movie talk.   
 Listen    Download Audio File Download

Wednesday
MiBiz with Mark Sanchez
  October 15, 2014  |  WGVU  Republican state lawmakers consider taxing E-vapor industry.   
 Listen    Download Audio File Download

Tuesday
Data's role in Downtown Grand Rapids events
  October 14, 2014  |  WGVU  Most of us have heard of 'SEO', but Downtown Grand Rapids Incorporated President Kristopher Larson has a slightly different definition in mind.    
 Listen    Download Audio File Download
Innovation Talk
  October 14, 2014  |  WGVU  The changing media landscape includes the migration of print to digital. How best for companies to promote their products?   
 Listen    Download Audio File Download

Friday
The "Blue Economy Tour" makes a stop in Muskegon
  October 10, 2014  |  WGVU  The University Research Corridor; a coalition of Michigan State University, the University of Michigan and Wayne State University focused on water-related research and impacts on the state’s economy visited the Annis Water Resources Institute. The focus: “Innovating for the Blue Economy.”   
 Listen    Download Audio File Download

Thursday
Ranee Lee What's Going On mixes jazz with r&b and reggae
  October 9, 2014  |  WGVU  Singer, songwriter and actress Ranee Lee has a new CD out via Justin Time records. What's Going On mixes r&b, reggae and original songs with jazz and string arrangements.    
 Listen    Download Audio File Download
Jazz guitarist Mark Elf returns with a new CD following Hurrican Sandy loss
  October 9, 2014  |  WGVU  Mark Elf is a jazz guitar virtuoso. He has independently released critically acclaimed CDs since the 1990's. But his most recent recording was delayed due to the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. Now "Mark Elf Returns 2014" is out, and topping the jazz radio chart.   
 Listen    Download Audio File Download

radio
Listen Live to WGVU-AM
Listen Live to WGVU-FM
Follow us on Twitter
WGVU News Page Sponsored by:
Amtrak
 
 
Home    Privacy Policies    Contact WGVU    GVSU.edu    PBS.org    NPR.org
Copyright 1997-2014 | WGVU is a service of Grand Valley State University | GVSU is an EO/AA institution