Nicholas Kristof asks tactfully whether everyone is a little bit racist, but since the “little bit” includes what might lead one to kill a person of another race, I’m leaving out the little bit.
The column is a fairly short but useful explanation of implicit bias. There are some of the usual links – e.g., to the implicit bias test – but one that I hadn’t realized is online. That’s the shooter task or “the police officer’s dilemma”. You are asked to decide whether someone holding something has a gun; if so, you press “j” for “shoot” and otherwise “f”. All the people one sees are men. The test is quite famous and I believe people, both white and not, are more inclined to shoot unarmed people of color than unarmed white people.
I failed miserably because for most of the time I couldn’t react in under a second, which is required. If police are making these split second decisions, I think we should try hard to stop that practice. I quickly found myself trying to create heuristics, ways of reacting before I had a full identification of what was being held. Pretty quickly I was prepared to shoot anyone who had something narrow and straight protruding from a hand. And that’s one of the kinds of mistakes police report themselves as making.
So I don’t know how the test fares as a test of racism, but I do think it should make us all very worried about armed policemen encouraged to shoot very quickly.