Will Racism Alter the Election?

A recent issue of The Boston Globe included an article about Mahzarin Banaji, a Harvard professor who studiesthe psychology of bias.  For two decades, Banaji has been a leadingresearcher into the nature of our implicit, unconscious biases.

To divide up the world by the preferences that you have is utterly human. Weall have unconscious biases that often dictate who we like and who we don't.The bias may not be about race. It might be a preference between men and women,religions, community, even how people dress.

In experiments designed to test our unconscious biases, the psychologist foundthat 80 percent of whites show a preference for the company of whites, while 40percent of blacks show a preference for the company of other blacks. Butblacks, much more so than whites, are more vocal in saying so. At this point in time, Obama is ahead in the polls. How meaningful isthis? It's hard to say because bias may cause many people to vote differently fromwhat they told a pollster. Not because they wanted to be deceptive, but becausethey stayed unaware of their own bias until they got in the voting booth.

The best way to deal with bigotry and bias is to acknowledge it. By acceptingyour own biases you have the best chance at countering them and working tocorrect them. Unconscious motivations have the power to control our behaviorsand the more conscious the thought you have, the better the chances that youcan control it. Everyone has some amount of bias about something. We can allwork toward a more equitable and accepting world by knowing our own human mindsand helping each other to keep the playing field fair and level.

Will race affect the final outcome of the election?

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