Stanford University social psychologist professor with a riveting exploration of the way our unconscious minds—even without explicit racism—shape our behaviour and thinking when it comes to race, stereotyping, inequality and how we view others. Her research is extraordinarily trenchant and important, and should start and inform many necessary conversations. "At its root, bias is not an affliction that can be cured or banished. It's a human condition we have to understand and deal with," she says.
Race activists might feel uneasy at her apparent legitimation of the “they all look alike” sentiment, along with her belief in the unavoidability of stereotyping and the claim that colour blindness is neither possible nor desirable... But when she applies her thinking about implicit bias to the way US police officers, including black ones, operate under pressure, her data and anecdotes (including about her own treatment) will shock any reasonable-minded person... Reading this book makes me more sympathetic to the idea of often-mocked diversity training to make us more aware of implicit biases. But beyond striving for self-awareness and open-mindedness it is not clear what it has to offer on top of the good practice and law that already stands between our unconscious and actions in the public domain.
Eberhardt’s discussion of the research is accessible and largely jargon-free. Does she overstate her case? Conservative critics such as the leading American researcher Heather Mac Donald — who goes unmentioned here — have ridiculed some of the claims that prejudice can be mapped so rigorously. She believes that “the implicit-bias crusade is agenda-driven social science”. A cynic might argue that the bias industry — which is a lucrative business now — is displacement activity designed to distract people from stark inequalities in society. Can a million Starbucks seminars undo the damage caused by bad schools, bad housing and crumbling family structures?