By Isaac Butler
If you’re someone who cares about discrimination and equality and reads the news, it’s pretty easy to get demoralized. I was just looking over our twitter feed and facebook feeds, and, at times, it can feel like a constant parade of bad news. Police are biased. High stakes tests are biased. Well-meaning people who believe in equality end up discriminating anyway. Micro-aggressions abound.
And then, of course, there’s the steady drumbeat of stories like the Freddie Gray killing in Baltimore, flashpoints that inspire and enrage us, and make it seem like at times we live in two very different countries.
Most of the time, when we talk about discrimination in America, we’re diagnosing the problem. We’re highlighting something, exploring it, and explaining it. We’re saying this is what discrimination looks like. This is how it works. This is how affects all of us.
Diagnosing a problem is vital, and the mind sciences have helped us deepen our diagnosis by exploring the problem of discrimination in the brain, through implicit bias, stereotype threat, and racial anxiety. These insights—particularly when taken together—help us see how discrimination really works, how institutional practices can reinforce inequality, and how individual behavior and decision making can so often fail to live up to our expectations for each other.
Recently, the mind sciences have also taken to testing possible interventions, ways that individuals, policy makers, and institutions can lessen, and in some cases reverse, the negative impacts of bias, anxiety, and threat. This work is some of the most exciting work going on in the social sciences today, yet, often we don’t end up hearing about these possible solutions, which hold great potential for improving our society.
Now that unconscious phenomena, particularly implicit bias, have reached the cultural mainstream, we here at Perception believe it is time to begin focusing on solutions.
That’s why we’re introducing #solutionsmonday. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be outlining a different, empirically tested, intervention every Monday. Some of these will focus on things individuals can do on their own. Others on group dynamics or institutional practices.
None of this is meant to take away from the great work that organizations and individuals are doing to diagnose, explain, and explore the problems of discrimination today. That’s important work, and work we’ll also continue to do. We want people to know, however, that there is hope, that interracial interaction does not have to end in frustration, failure, and harm. There are things we can all do to help, thanks to new understandings of how our minds process difference, and how our decision making is often shaped by biases we didn’t even know we possess.