If I’m honest with myself, that was my first reaction upon completing the Implicit Bias Test. Knowing that the vast majority of White (and even startling numbers of Black) folks have moderate to strong implicit bias preferencing White people to Black people, I figured the odds were definitely not in my favor of not presenting some implicit bias.
Because no matter how much work we do, how much we chill with our Black and Brown friends, how much we consume Black popular culture (usually to profit White folks), no matter how many Black revolutionary memoirs we read, no matter how much the love of my life and hopefully my future children will be of darker skin-tone than myself, we live in White supremacy, and consume it, breathe it, imbibe it, constantly. None of us should take for granted that we are subject to that. But we can choose to be more active in both reflecting and thinking on it, and taking action to change it at the points of production of White supremacy- with the media and sources of culture creation, and our everyday conversations as key nodes in that White supremacy supply chain.
I also, if I’m being totally honest, know that when the test talked about criminality, my first internal, mental images were of folks in the drug trade, folks swept up in interpersonal or community violence, folks at the ‘bottom of the ladder’ as the test framed it. It wasn’t until late in the test that I questioned more deeply the terms and frames of criminality, criminalization, etc. And that fact- no matter what my test says- is part of the heart of the matter. No matter how quickly I can recognize patterns and click the right image, the fact is that my brain is wired to image a particular kind of person and a particular kind of crime as ‘criminal’. And it’s wired to forget, and maybe even forgive, an entirely other kind of violence and kind of perpetrator of violence- no matter how much political education I’ve done about who the real perpetrators of mass violence, exploitation and oppression actually are.
That wiring has consequences in micro-aggressions, in who I listen to, in how I think about my own actions, and how I prioritize political action, thinking, etc. I’m White, and will continue to be so. Implicit bias is real, and will continue to be so. And there is much more to do than reflect, have conversation, and talk about it. We need action. We need responsibility and ownership to replace White guilt, denial and victimhood.
But in the day to day, we- all of us, but especially White folks closest to the points of production of White supremacy- need to remain constantly vigilant and self-critical, not as a badge of White ally honor and not as a purity test, and not as a setup to grind ourselves down with our perfectionism and concerns about our own character- but because we cannot afford to slide over and ignore the little things. It’s in split-second slip-ups, snap judgments and consequential decisions that other peoples’ lives and well-being hang in the balance. No test can provide the affirmation that we can afford to let up. The reflection, practice, and action (however imperfect, and however much we blow it) needs to continue.