The election of President Obama shows how far America has progressed in overcoming the racial divides that for so long scarred this country. But while overt racism is less and less acceptable in America, unconscious racial bias still plays a large role in our politics and society, as a new project launched this week by the Institute for America’s Future seeks to explore.
EJS and our president, Eva Paterson, have been involved in the project, called “Americans for American Values,” (AmericansForAmericanValues.org) which will research the effects of unconscious racial bias on decision making and will develop strategies to support decision-making based on consciously held American values rather than on racial anxiety and stereotypes.
john powell, the project’s founder and executive director of the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, said racial equality and fairness are values widely supported by Americans, but hidden biases often undermine these values.
“As society tries to move beyond racial discrimination, a better understanding of implicit bias is needed,” said powell. “Our two-fold goal with this study is to help the American public better understand implicit bias and to give them ways to avoid triggering these biases.”
Institute for America’s Future co-director Robert Borosage, whose organization will be the fiscal sponsor for the project, said the first series of studies will examine the impact of undetected racially-oriented biases on our democratic process.
“The election of the first African American president has helped us see one another with new eyes,” said Borosage. “Yet, we still struggle both as a society stratified in large part by race, and marked by attitudes that congeal in a society still marked by racial divisions.”
The “Americans for American Values” project will begin with research over the next two years designed to identify all the forms of implicit bias and what triggers them. The studies findings will help make recommendations on how to avoid these biases. The project was made possible by a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
The W.K. Kellogg Foundation was established in 1930. The organization supports children, families and communities as they strengthen and create conditions that propel vulnerable children to achieve success as individuals and as contributors to the larger community and society. Grants are concentrated in the United States, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the southern African countries of Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland and Zimbabwe.