Commentary

raceAhead: Podcast Presents New Ideas For Tackling Implicit Bias

Jun 15, 2017

Fortune data reporter Grace Donnelly is helping write raceAhead while Ellen McGirt is away on vacation.

When I told my editor the recent episode of one of my favorite podcasts that I listened to during my commute this morning, she decided I should be the one to tell raceAhead readers about it. So this is Grace, here in your inbox, to share it with you.

NPR’s Invisibilia is a podcast covering the forces shaping our lives that we can’t necessarily see or touch. The third season of the show is devoted to big abstract concepts like emotions, reality, and, this week, unconscious bias.

The social science behind our stereotypes and biases isn’t new information, especially to people passionate about inclusion in the workplace. But Invisibilia hosts Hanna Rosin and Alix Spiegel approach the topic from unusual angles with stories that ask questions listeners can use in daily life.

I’ve summed up my favorite examples from the episode, The Culture Inside, below. But it’s very much worth the full 55-minute listen.

How would you feel if this happened to someone in your family?

The white father of a black daughter finds himself profiling black men on the street. He’s candid and emotional about his realization of what he’s assuming in a way you rarely hear shared in a public setting.

Can we unlearn our prejudices using the same methods we use to battle addiction?

A black pastor travels to London and realizes that the type of racism he experiences in the U.S. is something other cultures haven’t learned. He thinks if people in other countries can grow up without learning these biases, maybe Americans can unlearn them. Inspired by the structure of “Alcoholics Anonymous”, he creates “Racists Anonymous” at his California church for people who want to address their racial bias in a safe space.

Are we being honest with ourselves about our own prejudices?

The research shows that in general, people view themselves as better, more moral individuals than they are. When a black St. Louis police officer heard an unconscious bias instructor say that even well-intentioned people have implicit bias, he decided to take the mandatory training more seriously. It made him realize that during his career he had been stereotyping others in much the same way he himself had been discriminated against by law enforcement as a young African American man. Now he teaches classes, mostly to white students, about how officers can check and combat their prejudices.

Maybe you’ve contemplated these questions before, but this episode does what Invisibilia does best: it presents a complex concept in both a personal and scientific manner. It’s a great explainer for friends or coworkers who may not be familiar with the topic, but it’s also a good framework to think about combatting bias in our daily lives.

What kind of progress could we make if we all thought about our prejudices not as moral failings to hide and feel ashamed about, but as incorrect concepts and associations we can work to unlearn?

We’d love to hear how you’ve approached unconscious bias, in or out of the workplace, so send us your experiences if you’d like to share. Stacy has the news below.

If you are reading the web version of raceAhead, Fortune's newsletter on culture and diversity in corporate America, click here to have it delivered to your inbox daily.

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