THE BLOG
07/02/2017 04:53 SAST | Updated 07/02/2017 04:53 SAST

Blink, A Jarring Look Into Every Person's Unconscious Racism

One of the troubles we face as a society is the fight against unconscious discrimination, which is much harder to 'set right'.

Laura Cavanaugh / FilmMagic
Malcolm Gladwell attends Apple Store Soho Presents Malcolm Gladwell, 'Revisionist History' at Apple Store Soho on August 10, 2016 in New York City.

I fell off reading quite a few years ago. I try my best to read a book but never manage to get to the end. Currently, I'm supposed to be reading 4 books, one of which I just added three weeks ago.

The book was lying on my mother's dressing table and it struck my attention because of the word "Blink". Intrigued, I picked it up and continued to read the title; the power of thinking without thinking. I had so many questions and I immediately started reading.

"Blink" is a book written by Malcolm Gladwell, an international bestseller and author of 'The Tipping Point'. Within 20 minutes of lying down and reading this book I learnt about the art of thin slicing and it changed my life immediately.

What I would like to point out about this book though is the section about the race IAT (implicit association test). This test is designed to measure and detect the strength of a person's immediate association between memory and concepts or the representation of an object. In short the race IAT, tests hidden racial biases by asking the test taker to match a person of a specific race with a positive or negative word.

The results of this study are dumbfounding. Most people were quick to associate a white man or woman with a positive word, whereas a black man or woman was quickly associated with a negative word. The results of this test were quite disappointing. Studies showed that most people, including black people, struggled to associate good words with black people or had a slower response time to associate a good word with a black person.

The reason we are still fighting racism today is because of discrimination, even though the laws we have against people of colour have been changed, and not even to a satisfactory level.

Gladwell writes that this shows that our unconscious minds may not fully represent our conscious values. He also describes how it is hard for society to escape from the representation of a minority group due the cultural messages that are sent daily through outlets like the media. This affects our behaviour greatly. White people may not notice the different ways in which they act around black people, although it may not explicitly affect what you choose to say or do.

This brings me to the point of this post; how do we fight this? In the same chapter, part 5, Gladwell refers to Dr. King. Keep in mind we are referring to unconscious biases and discrimination. The reason we are still fighting racism today is because of discrimination, even though the laws we have against people of colour have been changed, and not even to a satisfactory level.

One of the troubles we face as a society is the fight against unconscious discrimination, which is much harder to 'set right'. Gladwell explains that just because something is out of our awareness it does not necessarily mean this is behaviour we cannot control.

Referring back to the race IAT; there was a student who would take the IAT everyday and the results did not change until one day he got a positive association with black people. Upon further investigation, it was found that before he took the test he was watching Olympics.

Gladwell explains that our first impressions are calculated through information received from the environment and our experiences - which means we have the ability to change them. A white person will require more than wanting equality in order to associate positive thoughts and words with a black person. It requires effort; the ability to change your life to be surrounded more by minority groups and become more familiar with them and their culture.

One reading this may not agree with all that Gladwell has to say but it definitely does shed insight, and I thought I should share.