New project to combat unconscious racism

Original source:

While the election of President Obama shows that overt racism is less acceptable in America, a new project launched last month by the Institute for America’s Future explores the large role unconscious racial bias still plays in our politics and society.

The Americans for American Values (AAV) project will research the effects of unconscious racial bias on decision-making and develop strategies to support decision-making based on consciously held American values rather than on racial anxiety and stereotypes. The project began with the release of a series of educational videos and a set of research studies. View the new videos and learn more about AAV here.

john powell, the project’s founder and executive director of the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, said racial equality and fairness are values widely supported by Americans, but hidden biases often undermine these values.

As society tries to move beyond racial discrimination, a better understanding of implicit bias is needed. Our two-fold goal with this study is to help the American public better understand implicit bias and to give them ways to avoid triggering these biases.

Obama’s election is a testament to the “long march” toward justice led by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights, human rights and union activists, AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka said during the AFL-CIO’s annual King Day observance in January. But, Trumka warned:

Obama’s election is a milestone; but it’s not the finish line. Yes, his election is a triumph over racism, but it wasn’t the end of racism. And, God yes, his election says a lot about how far America has come; but it doesn’t mean that we still don’t have a long, long way to go.

For example, Trumka says, the home foreclosure crisis is hitting African Americans harder than other groups.

The fact that Barack Obama is moving into the White House doesn’t mean that a black family isn’t more likely to be forced out of their house.

African American household income averages $16,000 a year less than for whites and poverty in the African American community is almost twice the national average, he said. Click here to read Trumka’s speech.

Over the next two years, the Americans for American Values project will conduct studies to identify all the forms of implicit bias and what triggers them. The studies findings will help make recommendations on how to avoid these biases.

Institute for America’s Future Co-Director Robert Borosage says the first series of studies will examine the impact of undetected racially oriented biases on our democratic process.

The election of the first African American president has helped us see one another with new eyes. Yet, we still struggle both as a society stratified in large part by race, and marked by attitudes that congeal in a society still marked by racial divisions.

The project is made possible by a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.