Implicit bias has replaced overt racism as the primary cause of disparities that disadvantage Black people. It’s not that there are no overt bigots anymore, but our society has made most bigotry so stigmatized that it has been forced to go underground, into the unconscious. You will have people who are absolutely sure they hold no bias against African Americans, but when they take the Implicit Association test, they often discover their unconscious has other ideas. This test has been shown, with over 10 years of scientific study, to measure present biases and even predict future discriminatory actions. Most people who take this test show a bias in favor of European Americans, as opposed to African Americans. Counter-intuitively, about half of Blacks also show this bias.
When you dig deeper into this bias, you can see how it operates in society. Most recently, this has been demonstrated with Bill Cosby, Charles Barkley, and other visible Blacks who chide us about “our” cultural problems. Black on Black crime is a commonly cited example of what is considered a “problem in our community.” There are also the problems of sagging pants, violent and misogynist music, laziness, unwillingness to read and become educated, and a pop culture that glorifies conspicuous consumerism above saving and investing. When African Americans take to a podium, microphone or keyboard to lecture us on how we need to do better, they are usually applauded by all.
However helpful and wholesome these lectures may seem, they are premised on the notion of Black pathology. That we are inherently flawed or diseased in a way that other people are not. This train of thought seeps into Black respectability politics, stating, if we would just pull our pants up and get an education and be disciplined, we would be treated better. This train of thought was invented by White racists to justify and deflect responsibility for brutality.
Why are we told that we need to “clean up our house” before we can request the respect and dignity that humanity requires? It is the notion that Blackness is a disease that must be cured before we can claim full citizenship and human rights.
White people are never asked to cure the sickness that caused them to leave the lush green richness of Africa to venture into the ice of Europe only to return with weapons and hate to become the raping, murdering, and disease spreading thieves of the entire earth. Or to find the remedy that’s causing so many of their young men to go on mass shooting sprees. It’s not assumed that the epidemic of methamphetamine abuse in rural communities and prescription drug abuse in their suburban communities is because of some genetic defect. This is hyperbole, obviously. White people collectively are not raping, murdering, drug-abusing thieves. They are people. But this is how it sounds when you speak of “Whiteness” the way “Blackness” is often spoken of. Unlike Blackness, Whiteness is not considered a disease. Instead, it’s considered the norm we have to work towards to be granted the prize of being full humans.
Before we can move forward with this movement for equal justice, we as Black people have to acknowledge and remove the unconscious bias of Black pathology.