Politics and Prejudices: Coming to terms with your biases

The Implicit Bias Exhibit, presented by the Neag School of Education, officially opened on Monday, January 23 in the main entrance of the library. The exhibition invites individuals to explore inherent bias and other forms of discrimination and provides opportunities to read about recent research and debates involving prejudice. Students record their reactions to the exhibit. (Olivia Stenger/The Daily Campus)

The Neag School of Education conducted an opening reception of the Implicit Bias Exhibition at the Homer Babbidge Library on the University of Connecticut Storrs campus Monday afternoon.

Diversity is an important concept, yet the exhibit argues that every person has some form of bias against individuals.

Personal biases, research about the Implicit Association Test (IAT) and more were discussed amongst students, professors and other staff members.

“I think it’s normal to have a bias. The test isn’t designed to make you feel guilty but it shows you things you need to work on,” Vanessa Kania, a seventh-semester individualized major in gender race & inequality, said.

Kania’s response responded to a statement from UConn public policy professor Dr. Thomas Craemer, who said most results from the IAT show more positive association towards white people, regardless of race.

“I see this exhibit as an important collaborative inquiry opportunity for campus partners, myself included and our students in Neag,” Mark Kohan, professor of multicultural education in the Neag School of Education and the primary organizer of this exhibition, said. “We have more opportunity to consider how hidden and explicit biases can impact students and their ability to succeed in schools and in other learning environments.”

Critics might claim this exhibition exploits the public uproar in politics; notably Donald Trump being inaugurated as the official 45th U.S. president.

Kohan agreed that while implicit bias has been a popular topic in public discourse, there hasn’t been much time to understand its relations to other forms of discrimination and how to both identify and address the problem.

“Our planning committee — made up of a range of campus partners — felt this was an important and controversial term to ‘lean into’ for learning,” Kohan said.

“It offers us more context for understanding a term that was used and debated during the 2016 election and provides a unique opportunity for what the term may or may not offer us in identifying more humane ways forward in policy and practice.”

Kania made a similar statement about racial biases in politics, being that many of our federal regulations have their own hidden discrimination and that it will take a while to live in a “post-racial society” many Americans dream about.

Fortunately, there is some positive news: Craemer noted that the research has discovered that the same person who has a negative bias toward black people also shows pro-black attitudes.

“Implicit biases are a complex situation,” Craemer said. “It’s best not to take your results at face value, rather an individual should try to learn to become more conscious of their own biases in order to overcome them.”

For those interested in taking the exam, but would rather do it in privacy, visit http://www.implicit.harvard.edu/implicit. For more information about the exhibit, visit http://www.thedoddcenter.uconn.edu/implicitbias for more information.


Arlene Blum is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached by email at arlene.blum@uconn.edu.