The Dream Revisited
Discussion 6: Implicit Bias and Segregation

Discussion 6: Implicit Bias and Segregation

August 2014

The sixth discussion explores how implicit bias contributes to residential segregation and whether or not awareness of implicit biases can heighten a sense of moral urgency.

Essay

  • Implicit Bias and Segregation: Facing the Enemy

    by Jerry Kang

    My sense is that many Americans believe that segregation isn’t really caused by racial discrimination taking place today. According to this “common sense,” racial discrimination was common in the past (driven by very explicit biases). But today, segregation is driven more by simple economics: the rational pursuit of self-interest for oneself and one’s family. Most people simply want a safe and clean neighborhood, with good amenities, good schools, and good houses that will keep their property values. According to this common sense story, racial segregation is just a collateral consequence of the banal fact that well-resourced people (who happen to be disproprotionately White) get to exercise their economic choice to move to “good” neighborhoods (again, which happen to be disproportionately White). 

Discussants

  • Focus on Explicit Disparities Instead of Implicit Biases

    by Richard Ford

    Professor Kang argues that the concept of implicit bias can reveal ongoing discrimination of which most Americans are unaware and this revelation will inspire a sense of moral urgency to address the problem of segregation.  But this assumes that most of the bias responsible for segregation is unconscious and unwitting, as opposed to deliberate but concealed.

  • What Do We See When We Look In The Mirror?

    by Robert Smith

     Civil rights fatigue is real and widespread; therefore, arguments about historic injustice tend not to resonate as well as arguments about discrimination in the here and now. Likewise, while old-fashioned blatant racism still exists, discrimination today tends to come from a more nuanced and less explicit place. The problem, though, is that the causes and harms of housing segregation are simultaneously too complicated and too amorphous to spark a groundswell of moral urgency.

  • Implicit Bias, Intergroup Contact, and Debiasing: Considering Neighborhood Dynamics

    by Cheryl Staats

    As Kang points out, implicit bias can contribute simultaneously to perpetuating segregation and hiding the present-day discrimination that facilitates that segregation.  It is also true that neighborhood dynamics can affect individuals’ mental associations and implicit biases.  Specifically, diverse neighborhoods can play an important role in reducing bias by facilitating intergroup contact among residents.  

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