Yesterday I wrote about how NBA referees are implicitly racist. Black refs call more fouls on white players, and white refs call more fouls on black players. But it’s not like the refs do this on purpose. It’s the result of an implicit bias—a bias that creeps up only when we make split-second decisions, but disappears when we sit and think.
Initially, when these findings were published in The New York Times in 2007, NBA Commissioner David Stern was outraged, and he assured all of us that the NBA wasn’t racist. He was a bit misguided, though. We all harbor some kind of implicit bias, and we all are, in fact, a little bit racist.
However, as Malcolm pointed out in the comments, that doesn’t mean we should just sit back and let these biases affect our quick decisions:
Yes, we all have implicit biases, for which we are not blameworthy in the sense of being responsible for developing them. We’re born into culture and programmed from early ages on to stereotype groups. However, there is research into how to counter implicit biases (and since they are unconscious, such strategies require rewiring our reactions rather than giving us new beliefs). So instead of concluding “we’re all human,” shrugging, and leaving it at that, this news is evidence of how deeply some of our human limitations run. Having discovered that our calibration is “off” in a certain way, we ought to try to correct for it—the NBA as well as society at large. We may not be “damned” but that does not mean racial biases are not bad.
Cheers, Malcolm. We appreciate the knowledge, and we love it when a comment adds something important to the discussion. Have a good weekend, everyone. We’ll see you on Monday.