How can you change if you don’t have a problem?

Alphafeminist remarks in a comment:

I have been working on educating my department on the implicit bias work. As one might imagine, they immediately scrutinized the methodologies of the studies and proved to their satisfaction that the results did not apply to us in philosophy. One thing that we need is accurate demographic data regarding our graduate students and faculty.

That’s exactly what I’d expect, though certainly not hope for.  I take the last sentence about demographic data to suggest seeing the actual figures might show philosophers something is wrong.  But, equally, it might lead them to conclude that women just cannot do philosophy.  I’ve had a conversation to that effect with too many people already.

So what else can one do?  Any ideas?  Experiences?  Getting some senior people to buy in can help.  A lot of my optimism about the Society for Philosophy and Psychology’s effort is that the leadership sees there’s a significant problem.  I think one thing some NSF advance sites did was to have people evaluate themselves before and after  watching some material on how sexism operates.  E.g., it isn’t that hard to  recognize some of the sexist tropes in one’s thought.

Any other ideas?  Suggestions?

Naomi Wolf on the end of America: What do you think?

“A very controversial writer,” according to Viera, the host.  Notice that this is hardly a friendly interview.

A longer and friendlier interview, which goes much further in her claims, can be found here.  Among the things she mentions is the threat of martial law described here.  A worry one might have is that the theory is much more loaded than the actual data.  But what do you think?

Obama and the complexities of racism

I just read an interesting article here about the (at first) surprising fact that some people with explicitly negative beliefs about African Americans are planning to vote for Obama. On reflection, or course, it’s not surprising at all. Even openly bigoted people of the most extreme sort– those who think black people are inferior to white people, and will say so out loud– will generally allow that there are exceptions. This is why the classic black best friend really doesn’t (on its own) show that someone isn’t a racist. So *of course* one may hold negative beliefs about African Americans and still support Obama. But it’s well worth remembering– especially given all the articles I’ve seen assuming that whole regions are not worth fighting for because there’s so much racism. (I’m pleased to see, though, that Obama’s people really don’t seem to have accepted these “give up on x arguments” at all.)

I also began thinking, though, about the effect that it has on people when they do make that black friend. Their racist beliefs may well get shaken a bit (of course they also may not). And it got me wondering about the effect that Obama may be having on people’s beliefs, and also their unconscious biases. After all, one of the fascinating things about unconscious bias is the sort of thing that can reduce it:

There is growing evidence that implicit attitudes can be changed through exposure to counter-stereotypes. When the race test is administered by a black man, test takers’ implicit bias toward blacks is reduced, says Irene Blair, a University of Colorado psychologist who recently conducted a review of studies that looked at how attitudes could be changed. Volunteers who mentally visualized a strong woman for a few seconds — some thought of athletes, some thought of professionals, some thought of the strength it takes to be a homemaker — had lower bias scores on gender tests. Having people think of black exemplars such as Bill Cosby or Michael Jordan lowered race bias scores. One experiment found that stereotypes about women became weaker after test takers watched a Chinese woman use chopsticks and became stronger after they watched the woman put on makeup. Interventions as brief as a few seconds had effects that lasted at least as long as 24 hours.

I wonder what the effect might be of being regularly exposed to images of a black Presidential candidate, or even a black President.