Heather Mac Donald recently exposed the junk science behind the “Implicit Association Test” in a piece entitled “Are We All Unconscious Racists?” Her answer—“No”—is good, but it could have been better. And sooner.
Few academic ideas have been as eagerly absorbed into public discourse in recent years as “implicit bias.” Embraced by a president, a would-be president, and the nation’s top law-enforcement official, the implicit-bias conceit has launched a movement to remove the concept of individual agency from the law and spawned a multimillion-dollar consulting industry. The statistical basis on which it rests is now crumbling, but don’t expect its influence to wane anytime soon.
Implicit bias purports to answer the question: Why do racial disparities persist in household income, job status, and incarceration rates, when explicit racism has, by all measures, greatly diminished over the last half-century? The reason, according to implicit-bias researchers, lies deep in our brains, outside the reach of conscious thought. We may consciously embrace racial equality, but almost all of us harbor unconscious biases favoring whites over blacks, the proponents claim. And those unconscious biases, which the implicit-bias project purports to measure scientifically, drive the discriminatory behavior that, in turn, results in racial inequality.
[City Journal, Autumn 2017]
Ms. Mac Donald herself suggests that it is “taboo in universities and mainstream society to acknowledge intergroup differences in interests, abilities, cultural values, or family structure that might produce socioeconomic disparities.”
I suggest that it is taboo at City Journal to suggest that these different outcomes derive largely from heredity.
The Implicit Association Test (IAT), which is supposed to test for bias scientifically, was created by psychologists Anthony Greenwald(email him) and Mahzarin Banaji (Email her)in 1998.
Here’s Mac Donald’s description of what the test actually does:
The race IAT (there are non-race varieties) displays a series of black faces and white faces on a computer; the test subject must sort them quickly by race into two categories, represented by the “i” and “e” keys on the keyboard. Next, the subject sorts “good” or “positive” words like “pleasant,” and “bad” or “negative” words like “death,” into good and bad categories, represented by those same two computer keys. The sorting tasks are then intermingled: faces and words appear at random on the screen, and the test-taker has to sort them with the “i” and “e” keys. Next, the sorting protocol is reversed. If, before, a black face was to be sorted using the same key as the key for a “bad” word, now a black face is sorted with the same key as a “good” word and a white face sorted with the reverse key. If a subject takes longer sorting black faces using the computer key associated with a “good” word than he does sorting white faces using the computer key associated with a “good” word, the IAT deems the subject a bearer of implicit bias. The IAT ranks the subject’s degree of implicit bias based on the differences in milliseconds …
In other words, the test is obvious nonsense. This is what the test looks like—a screenshot from my computer:
You can take it here, courtesy of Harvard’s “Project Implicit.” But really, all it is a stupid computer game.
According to Mac Donald, Greenwald and Banaji confidently asserted that
“any differences in sorting times for black and white faces flow from unconscious prejudice against blacks; they also claimed that such unconscious prejudice, as measured by the IAT, predicts discriminatory behavior. It is “clearly . . . established that automatic race preference predicts discrimination,” they wrote in their 2013 bestseller Blind Spot, which popularized the IAT. And in the final link of their causal chain, they hypothesized that this unconscious predilection to discriminate is a cause of racial disparities: “It is reasonable to conclude not only that implicit bias is a cause of Black disadvantage but also that it plausibly plays a greater role than does explicit bias in explaining the discrimination that contributes to Black disadvantage.”
All of this is based on the a priori assumption that if there weren’tprejudice against blacks, they would be doing just as well as whites—saving as much money, committing as little crime, getting as good jobs, and passing as many tests. There’s never been any evidence for this, but it comforts the liberals to think it. Steve Sailer calls it applying “Occam’s Butterknife” instead of Occam’s Razor.
There is nothing inherently bad about blacks or any other race. Nothing. However, it is true they have had opportunities denied and have a lot of catching up to do. Bias against their skin color is not what is holding them back today.
What holds them back is a political party which strives to maintain their poverty status and keep them dependent upon that party. What holds them back is promoting the victim attitude and characterizing studying, educating and working hard as “acting white” (what an absolutely stupid view). What holds them back is a party which uses THEIR bias to maintain divisiveness and suspicion. What holds them back today is liberalism and the Democrat party.
I was halfway through grade school before our schools were integrated. This was also along about the time I became involved in scholastic team sports and experiencing working closely with those of other cultures and races. Team sports is a bonding experience and a good opportunity for myself to have a very positive first experience with black people. I developed close friendships and great admiration for my black teammates.
My kids grew up and went to school without any of the historic racial biases. They went to school with other races without the impression they were SUPPOSED to be different and separate. THIS is the ideal; not even being aware there are biases they are “supposed” to defeat within their minds.
Then came the Obama era. Then came the victim culture. Then came the accusation that unless one believed as they were being told to believe, whether it had anything related to race or not, they were “racist”. Then came “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot”, a divisive movement based solely on a racist-inspired lie. I no longer have young children, but those who do have no way to explain such events other than explaining how prejudice, bias, bigotry and racism takes over the thinking of people trying to impose bad ideas upon people unwilling to accept them. We are being judged by others based on the color of our skin, something we are supposed to believe is the most wrong of all wrong.
I may not understand this “test” fully, but it appears it has to be approached with prejudices in order to even take the test. How else do you evaluate pictures of people you don’t know, using only their skin color, than through prejudice? The test INDUCES prejudice, then proclaims, “See? Inherent bias… just as I predicted.”
Eliminating prejudice and racism is not a job for people who benefit the most by divisiveness and conflict. It is not a job for the left.