Racism and sexism are taboo. Equalities are enshrined in the law yet society still looks unfair. People strenuously deny being racists and yet the evidence of discrimination backs up the claims of people from ethnic and religious minority groups. The explanation, unconscious bias. Basically people don’t know they are doing it. They have involuntarily soaked up attitudes, beliefs and stereotypes which lead them to be bias without being aware or conscious of it. You can understand if some of those on the receiving end find this a rather convenient excuse. However as a senior manager with a lead responsibility for equality and diversity I found it counter productive to call people racist even when they expressed views or trotted out stereotypes that reflected a clear bias. The most effective approach was to creat a safe environment to encourage frank discussion and then use the opportunity to challenge the myths, stereotypes and false hoods. Of course this didn’t change the way the real racists thought but I believe these dangerous and devious individuals to be small in number.
By its nature we are all subject to unconscious bias but this means as self aware beings we have a responsibility to examine our own attitudes and be open to information that challenges our assumptions.
Blair Mcpherson former Director ,author and blogger www.blairmcpherson.co.uk