An article in the NY Times contains important information on research into implicit bias. It also has a number of useful, though upsetting, examples. Here are some of them:
■ When doctors were shown patient histories and asked to make judgments about heart disease, they were much less likely to recommend cardiac catheterization (a helpful procedure) to black patients — even when their medical files were statistically identical to those of white patients.
■ When whites and blacks were sent to bargain for a used car, blacks were offered initial prices roughly $700 higher, and they received far smaller concessions.
■ Several studies found that sending emails with stereotypically black names in response to apartment-rental ads on Craigslist elicited fewer responses than sending ones with white names. A regularly repeated study by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development sent African-Americans and whites to look at apartments and found that African-Americans were shown fewer apartments to rent and houses for sale.
■ White state legislators were found to be less likely to respond to constituents with African-American names. This was true of legislators in both political parties.
■ Emails sent to faculty members at universities, asking to talk about research opportunities, were more likely to get a reply if a stereotypically white name was used.
■ Even eBay auctions were not immune. When iPods were auctioned on eBay, researchers randomly varied the skin color on the hand holding the iPod. A white hand holding the iPod received 21 percent more offers than a black hand.
■ The criminal justice system — the focus of current debates — is harder to examine this way. One study, though, found a clever method. The pools of people from which jurors are chosen are effectively random. Analyzing this natural experiment revealed that an all-white jury was 16 percentage points more likely to convict a black defendant than a white one, but when a jury had one black member, it convicted both at the same rate.
A number of these can also be used as examples of white privilege.
Ruth Chang argues that many choices we make should be seen as decisions about the sort of person we want to be:
Many of the choices we face in the new year will be between alternatives that are on a par. Our task then is to reflect on what kind of person we can commit to being when making those choices. Can we commit to forgoing a much-needed new car and give the money to charity instead? Can we commit to staying in a secure 9-to-5 job rather than starting the business we’ve always dreamed of? Can we commit to having a parent with Alzheimer’s move in with us, rather than paying to put her in a nursing home?
So in this new year, let’s not do the same old, same old; let’s not resolve to work harder at being the selves that we already are. Instead, let’s resolve to make ourselves into the selves that we can commit to being.
Lisa Guenther (Vanderbilt) — also the author of Solitary Confinement: Social Death and Its Afterlives — has made public the syllabus for her course on the philosophy of police violence and mass incarceration.
Here’s the course description:
The killing of unarmed black men, Michael Brown and Eric Garner, by police in Missouri and New York, and the grand jury process that judged both homicides to be justifiable, has provoked a powerful social movement affirming that Black Lives Matter. The history of police violence against black people is as long as the history of policing itself; arguably, the first organized police forces in the US were slave patrols in South Carolina. As Beth Richie, Dean Spade, and other scholars have shown, women of color, people with disabilities, and queer, trans and gender-nonconforming people are also exposed in various ways to disproportionate police surveillance, arrest, and incarceration. Not only does the US have high rates of police violence and misconduct, we also have the highest incarceration rate in the world. Contemporary scholars have called this situation of mass incarceration in the US neo-slavery, the New Jim Crow, the Prison Industrial Complex, and the Golden Gulag.
In this course, we will engage philosophically with issues raised by police violence and mass incarceration in the US, asking both what philosophers can bring to the conversation and also what we can learn from the critical analysis and collective action of thinkers and activists beyond the academic discipline of philosophy. Our challenge is not only to read the work of contemporary philosophers, and not only to respond to current events, but to re-think what the practice of philosophy could become if philosophers sought not only to interpret the world, but also to change it.
Read more about it at Daily Nous.