Implicit bias in a workplace

By Alvin Jackson, CONTRIBUTOR

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A graduate student from San Francisco State University, Zuberi Johnson, once suspected that the employees at the campus bookstore followed people of color around the store. As a person of color, he tested this theory with himself and a friend. They walked inside the store and walked in opposite directions of the store. Soon, they were both followed by an employee.
“There were other people who walked in who were not watched. Not sure if this still happens, but this was customary at one point,” Johnson stated.
When it comes to the media describing a person, the ethnicity of an individual may not be described, but a description of the person might imply a specific racial group. This gives the media a chance to attach a story to a certain ethnicity.
Many people, including politicians, say that they “don’t see race” as if everyone is treated equally and there is no intention of their underlying racist actions. In reality, those who say this are choosing to be ignorant of their implicit bias. They do not address the consequences of being any other ethnicity than white. The topic of implicit bias is important because people in positions of power are choosing to be ignorant toward the mistreatment of different ethnic groups.
In April 2018, two black men, Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson, were arrested after a Starbucks employee called the police. Nelson and Robinson were not charged and were only waiting for a business meeting when the incident happened, according to the Guardian. This resulted in a racial sensitivity training that was administered to employees of 8,000 U.S. stores. The video consists of information and testimonies from people of color who have gone through similar discrimination as the men who were arrested.
Implicit bias refers to stereotypes we associate with people of different ethnicities and genders. This term can lead to unintentional and intentional racial discrimination towards others.
William Lawson, a professor at CSUEB who has studied rhetoric of race 16 years, explained an instance where he faced this issue himself. Lawson is married to a Filipino woman and would go out with her large Filipino family. When out in public, Lawson, who is a white man, would be approached first amongst the group. He notices that this happens to him regardless if the person addressing him is of a different ethnicity or not. He was always the one that people went to first.
Race is defined as a social construct that divides individuals into groups based on different physical characteristics and heritage, according to University Diversity Officer, Kimberly Baker-Flowers.
“Racial discrimination is an action,” she said in an interview. “An individual makes choices intentionally. Racial discrimination can operate unconsciously and intentionally.”
The racial discrimination that people have developed within themselves is an intentional choice a person can make. An individual can either choose to act against other races, or make a difference and not act out. This is all a choice, according to Lawson.
“Racial bias is [when] we just have this knee-jerk reaction” Lawson explained. “We see someone who’s brown, or yellow, or white, or black, and we have this freight train of information and experiences or lack of experiences. Honestly, sometimes just comes crashing into your perspective.”