Test measures implicit biases; results may surprise


Photo Courtesy of Project Implicit

Noel Rockwell, Feature Editor

“Have you ever wondered if you might be secretly racist?”

The words displayed on my computer screen. Intrigued, I read on. I learned that researchers at Harvard University created the Implicit Association Test (IAT) to measure unacknowledged “associations about race, gender, sexual orientation and other topics” according to their website.

One focus of the test is racism, measuring test taker’s reaction times when comparing skin color positively or negatively. Reading this, I was instantly curious. Even though I knew I was not racist, and that the results I would receive must prove that, I decided to take the test anyway.

My results were not what I expected.

Throughout the test I had strongly preferred images with lighter skin tones, over darker ones. Extremely surprised, I automatically believed that the results must be false.

I told myself that I know who I am, and I know what I stand for. Racism is not part of my identity.

As time passed, however, I began to question exactly what my results meant. I then discovered what inherent racism is and how that could be an explanation for the results I received.

Inherent racism refers to an individual’s utilization of unconscious biases when making judgments about people from different racial and ethnic groups.

Researching further, in a new report written by Advancement Project California, Marin County is now ranked the most racially unequal in the state according to the Marin IJ.

The report concluded that Marin’s lowest performance came in the housing area, where it was ranked first in racial inequality among California counties.

Economic opportunity is another important area of inequity within Marin, particularly regarding the income gap between minorities and the white population living here.

While this report is significant, it should come as no surprise. Having lived in Marin my whole life, my understanding of the surrounding wealth in which I have been raised developed at an early age.

In kindergarten I would watch my classmates be picked up from school in $85,000 cars. In middle school, I would go over to friends’ homes that I thought only existed on TV screens. In high school, students’ wealth has only become magnified.

Not only is Marin’s wealth easy to recognize, it’s impossible to ignore. The gap between whites and minorities, specifically regarding the economic opportunities available, seems to be increasing in today’s political environment.

Already my high school lacks racial diversity. As the cost of living here becomes more and more expensive, it only may grow over time.

This sort of predominantly white society forces upon students a form of inherent, unrecognized racism. Children who grow up among people who share their skin color, only grow more accustomed to it.

This forces the perception that people of color are foreign, overall altering how one might interact. Walking around campus I’ve noticed that students are in friend groups with others of the same ethnicity.

Marin’s racial inequality gap directly results in the prevalent inherent racism in our community. As this gap continues to grow, the disparities between individuals will continue to build barriers. While bridging such a gap is a complex and extensive process, it is necessary.

This doesn’t mean that suddenly schools should just create a more diverse student body by bringing in students from other areas. In all honesty, the lack of diversity at other schools in our district is not going to change anytime soon.

What we do have control over, however, starts with our recognition of our unacknowledged racism, then acting upon it. Here, white people are the majority, and as the majority, it is our obligation to make the necessary changes in our behavior.

Whether that concerns branching out and educating yourself on these issues or advocating for students who feel underrepresented, such action is vital.

If you are interested in taking the Harvard IAT test, go to https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/takeatest.html