A front page LA Times article, titled Testing Obama’s effect on racial attitudes, explores the impact that President Obama may be having on subconscious anti-black bias in America. It’s a fascinating read and highlights the IAT or Implicit Association Test that I mention in my new book, This Is Not How I Thought It Would Be: Remodeling Motherhood to Get the Lives We Want Today (coming out October 15th). The IAT is used by social scientists to try to identify the degree of subconscious bias people have a about a variety of people such as blacks, the disabled, and women.
It’s a simple exercise you can do online right now in just a few minutes by going to the IAT Demo site. I recommend taking both the test on race and the test on gender and career associations. Humbling to say the least for any of us to find that despite our conscious and truthful statements that we believe the races are equal and that women can be successful in careers and men can be great with family, underneath most of us carry subconscious biases to the contrary.
The good news is, as the article points out, that it is possible to shift these implicit biases. In Obama’s case, the theory is that such a prominent, visible example of a black man who contradicts the stereotypes is shifting even subconscious attitudes. The analogy for mothers and fathers is that the more people see mothers visibly succeeding in the workplace and fathers visibly taking an active role with family, perhaps over time the subconscious associations that reinforce more traditional family roles will start to fade away. So on that front, the more actively Obama talks about his involvement with his children, he can help us knock out two stereotypes at once!