What does bias mean to us?
Updated: Oct 20, 2021
Our conditions cannot change until we first change the condition of our hearts. We must open up our
minds and our hearts to others, our differences, our pains, our struggles, our joys, our hurdles, and this
means we recognize everyone. We must recognize every race, every culture, male and female,
everyone. We have offered a lot of information about the judicial system, but here in this section we
wanted to provide some facts and history on why it is so deeply ingrained.
Biases in our Justice System runs rampant, and we must focus on this, because our justice system refuses to even consider its possibility. Like Attorney General Barr recently said, the media gives false
information about how much racial discrimination and other bias runs through our judicial system. Unfortunately, taking statistics from the Department of Justice and others show how wrong Mr. Barr is.
When we first look at this topic, we must ask ourselves what first comes to mind when we first hear
or see the words: bias, racism, or; sexism?
For most it’s probably a negative perception which is rejected. Most don't want to view themselves or be viewed with any form of bias, whether it is racism,
sexism, religion, economics, or any other form of inequalities. The truth is actually quite contrary, it runs deep in our veins until we take action to overcome it. It’s like a thief in the night. One way to tell is
to go through history, to look at the statistics and the facts. The things that we cannot change or alter, it
has already been.
It’s not that people intend on being biased, prejudicial, offensive, or hurtful. At least not the majority of the times. The question is why do we think, feel, and believe the way we do? Where did our thoughts come from? Whether they are good, bad, or a combination of the two. Some have said its
heredity, some have said it’s based on our environment, some have said it’s just innate qualities. However, the closer truth is that it is a combination of all these. When a child is born, it does not come out of the womb wanting to hurt anyone. The child has a smile on its face, needs help, wants to love
and be loved. Children dont come out of the womb biased. This part is a learned trait; however, it must also be noted that during the second trimester the child begins to take in information. Feeling
from its mother, her emotions, her responses.
You can ask a sexist why they are sexist, or a racist why they are racist, and most couldn't give an adequate explanation. Common responses are some form of a stereotype, which lacks any standing, or
based on some form of tradition from their parents or those around them (environment). You can ask a
person, and many cannot answer except "my parents were such-and-such" or "my grandparents were
such-and-such" From birth we begin to form our own perceptions, how we see the world around us
and everything within, animate or inanimate. These perceptions are formed consciously and
subconsciously. Many different things are happening all at once even when we are not aware. [See e.g.
Nilanjana Dasgupta, "Implicit Ingroup Favoritism, and Their Behavioral Manifestations," Social Justice
Research 17 (2004): 143; Also see Jerry Kang, "The Trojan Horses of Race," Harvard Law Review 118
Michelle Alexander wrote in her book, The New Jim Crow that "A survey was conducted in 1995 asking
the following question: 'Would you close your eyes for a second, envision a drug user, and describe that
person to me?" The startling results were published in the Journal of Alcohol and Drug Education.
Ninety-Five percent of respondents pictured a black drug user, while only 5 percent imagined other
racial groups. [Betty Watson Burston, Dionne Jones, and Pat Robertson-Saunders, Drug Use and African
Americans: Myth Versus Reality," Journal of Alcohol and Drug Abuse 40 (Winter 1995): 19]. These
results contrast sharply with the reality of drug crime in America. African Americans constituted only 15
percent of drug users in 1995, and they constitute roughly the same percentage today. Whites
constituted the vast majority of drug users then (and now), but almost no one pictured a white person
when asked to imagine what a drug user looks like. The same group of respondents also perceived the
typical drug trafficker as black." [Michelle Alexander “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the age
of Colorblindness”, 106]
These biases are not based only on race. For example, a man may make jokes or speak negatively
about a woman gossiping. Yet gossip is also common among men as well. Daniel Kahneman in his book; "Thinking, Fast and Slow" wrote: "Why be concerned with gossip? Because it is much easier, as well as
far more enjoyable, to identify and label the mistakes of others than to recognize our own. Questioning
what we believe and want is difficult at the best of times, and especially difficult when we most need to
do it, but we can benefit from the informed opinions of others."; [Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and
Slow, pg. 3].
This is what we're asking all of us to do. . . question our beliefs. Deeply ingrained in our society,
government, and personal thought process lies bias. It is human nature for human beings to read the
previous statement and automatically think it does not apply to us. However, it is so ingrained through
our subconsciousness that it is there for every one of us until we learn how to overcome it. This does
not mean that everyone should be faulted for it, because our media, radio, music, government and so
many other factors contribute to this. Our environmental controls play a large part in our subconscious
minds, which has a great effect on our belief systems. Nor does this mean we should be able to rely on
this as an excuse. There must come a time when every person is held accountable.
Our society often objectifies women as being someone who takes care of children; does the cooking,
cleaning, laundry, serves guests and her partner; even sexualized. Some people genuinely believe
they’re not sexist, yet their words and actions objectify the female sex. There are millions if not billions
and trillions of examples, of where men believe that they can do anything and they are above the law.
Although this may be true for some, it is never right, even for those it is assumed that its okay for, to
objectify and treat any female (woman or child) in this manner. This is why sexual harassment and
other types of harassments are so prevalent. It’s not that women want this type of attention or illegal
behavior, they are often rendered powerless. When some brave souls do stand up, they are dragged
through the mud, and the offending party tries to destroy her character. Then the law essentially
mandates the victims to be held responsible for their abusers transgressions, this is called victim
Biases are often affected by recurrence, which plays a major role in our belief system. Seeing or
hearing the same thing over and over again will add validity to it even if it lacks any standing. Women
by nature are nurturers. It is common to think of them as taking care of the children, cooking, cleaning,
doing laundry, and giving birth. However, these things do not define the woman, because she has so
many other great qualities that society often wants to hide or ignore. Women are intelligent, hard
workers, and generally remain more coherent and professional in stressful situations. They currently
possess more associates degrees, bachelors degrees, and master degrees then men do. Yet until the
early 1900's they were precluded from holding public office, voting, working, being in the military, and
other things. Dubbed the "norm theory", society is slow to change things, even if it dramatically needs
to be changed. Just because something is perceived normal, or has gone on for many years, decades, or
centuries, does not make the conduct right nor just.
Another example is where the Supreme Court held that a life sentence did not violate the Cruel and
Unusual Punishment of the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution. [See
(holding that although its cruel it’s not abnormal)]. This is the very bias and injustice we must remove
from our system. Justice Alito often in his dissents says "This will open the flood gates" [See e.g.
]. Why is a supreme court justice even considering this factor? The only thing that matters is if it’s just,
does it violate the law, is it consistent with the United States Constitution. It’s time that we get new
Judges in office who do not hold onto old preconceived notions that they are unwilling to change.
So, for years these belief systems were normal and anything contrary would be abnormal. It would
not fit into the current context of activated ideas. The media contributes to a large portion of individual
beliefs, it makes information more readily available in memory and recurrence. There was a movie
made about this with Will Smith when he consistently put a number in a man's mind by having it shown
to him over a period of time. Then when he came up with a secret number, it was already known. It
was not really a secret. [the 2015 movie Focus]. This type of recurrence makes the information familiar
in our minds and then we seek to further validate it even if its information is not accurate. We will seek
information out to justify it in our own minds. Many people believe if the news reports it then it must
be true, but this is not always true. Even in situations when it is true, the media rarely provides other
sides of the story. They have a goal, and that is to sell papers, to make money, and to stay in business.
Reporting the facts is not always the first on the agenda. This same perception is also true for reading
something on the internet, but this has more detrimental effects. At least the media is generally honest,
and goes through facts checking and checking their sources, whereas information on the internet comes
from anyone and anywhere for any particular reason.
There is an abundance of evidence showing that implicit bias is disassociated from explicit bias. [See
e.g., Dovidio et al., "On the Nature of Prejudice": and Dasgupta, "Implicit Ingroup Favoritism."] What
this means is just because a person may honestly believe they are not biased against Blacks, that you
work with Blacks, have Black friends or relatives, does not mean that they are free from unconscious
bias. [See Brian Nosek, Mahzarin Banaji, and Anthony Greenwald, "Harvesting Implicit Group Attitudes
and Beliefs From a Demonstration Web site, "Group Dynamics 6 (2002): 101; Dovidio et al., "On the
Nature of Prejudice"; and Dasgupta, "Implicit Ingroup Favoritism."].
We have written about juries and discussed about the effects of bias here. Some studies have shown
that people are harsher when an accused is darker and more lenient when the accused is lighter. The
closer the accused looks white the less bias there is. [John A. Bargh et al., "Automaticity of Social
Behavior: Direct Effects of Trait Construct and Stereotype Activation on Action," Journal of Personality
and Social Psychology 71 (1996): 230; Gilliam and Iyengar, "Prime Suspects"; Jennifer L. Eberhardt et al.,
"Looking Deathworthy," Psychological Science 17, no. 5 (2006): 383-86("Jurors are influenced not simply
by the knowledge that the defendant is Black, but also by the extent to which the defendant appears to
be stereotypically Black. In fact for the Blacks with (the most stereotypical faces), the chance of
receiving a death sentence more than doubled"); Jennifer L. Eberhardt et al., "Seeing Black: Race, Crime,
and Visual Processing, "Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 87, no 6 (2004): 876-93 (not only
were black faces considered more criminal by law enforcement, but the more stereotypical black faces
were considered to be the most criminal of all); and Irene V. Blair, "The Influence of Afrocentric Facial
Features in Criminal Sentencing," Psychological Science 15, no. 10 (2004): 674-79(finding that inmates
with more Afrocentric features received harsher sentences then individuals with less Afrocentric
American law was developed to control the people and it was never viewed as giving women or any
race more rights than a white man, and it was designed to give a Black person no rights. For example,
the United States Supreme court held in 1857 that "A Black man has no rights which a White man is
bound to respect." [Dred Scott v Sandford, ( ).].The justices found this after a slave declared
himself a free person once he visited and lived in a free state temporarily. Out of the first 18 presidents
to the United States, 13 of them were slave owners, and wanted to keep those rights. The large portion
of Congress was also plantation owners. It can be seen how one would make certain laws to protect
their own personal interests rather than uphold what is just for all people. Now here we are with this
belief system so deeply integrated into our culture and legal system and American psyche that it will not
be an easy task to reverse. Simply changing a law, adding a law will not suffice. We need to de-root the
disease that is so deeply imbedded.