Resistance Training

The Philosophers' Magazine 91:40-45 (2020)
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The summer of 2020 witnessed perhaps the largest protests in American history in response to police and vigilante brutality against the black community. New protests are still erupting every time another suppressed video, such as of Daniel Prude, surfaces, or another killing, such as Breonna Taylor’s, goes unpunished. As communities demand meaningful reform, the point – or pointlessness – of “implicit bias training” takes on renewed urgency. Implicit bias trainings aim to raise awareness about the unwitting or unwilling prejudices and stereotypes that shape our habits of thinking, feeling, and navigating through the social world. These trainings have been widely adopted by businesses, schools, and law enforcement agencies. Do they make any difference? Although I conduct implicit bias trainings myself (including for courts, judges, police, and attorneys), I share many critics’ concerns. Many trainings are too brief and oversimple, and too often their real function is to permit organisations to “check a box” to protect against litigation, rather than to spark real change. But “implicit bias training” is just another way of saying “education about implicit bias,” and, like all kinds of education, it can be done well or poorly. If implicit bias is one important piece of a large and complex puzzle, then education about it – when done right – should have a meaningful role to play in helping us understand ongoing inequities and enact reforms.
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