Written by Dr. Godwin Ude, MBA, PhD
Unconscious Bias has emerged as a subtle but potent threat to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), especially concerning Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) individuals. The unintentional nature of unconscious bias makes it a particularly elusive problem to address and rectify.
The challenges are not only restricted to unconscious bias but extend to conscious bias against BIPOC individuals. Questions often posed to people of colour with accents in North America, such as, “Where did you come from?”, “Sorry, I am having a hard time hearing you” or “Where did you originally come from?” might seem like harmless conversation initiators; however, they can be demeaning and provocative. They underline an inherent “othering” of individuals based on ethnicity or accents, subtly signalling that they do not belong or are less valued in that space (Sue et al., 2007).
Territorialism and economic colonization further exacerbate this issue. The monopolization of specific sectors of the economy to exclude people of colour is a dire threat to multiculturalism and economic progress. When certain groups dominate vital economic sectors, it stifles innovation, economic growth, and the vast potential embedded in a multicultural workforce (Page, 2007).
Conscious and unconscious biases manifest in various unsettling ways, many of which remain under-acknowledged. For instance, the hiring process is rife with such biases where equally or more qualified BIPOC candidates are overlooked for their white counterparts (Bertrand & Mullainathan, 2004). The portrayal of BIPOC individuals often reinforces stereotypical narratives, further feeding into the cycle of bias and discrimination.
Unravelling the myriad dimensions of unconscious and conscious biases requires a concerted effort from individuals, organizations, and society. Comprehensive education and training on DEI, reflection on personal biases, and systemic overhauls of discriminatory practices are essential steps toward fostering a more inclusive environment.
The discourse on unconscious and conscious bias necessitates a deeper understanding and acknowledgement of its detrimental effects on BIPOC communities. By confronting these biases and working towards a more equitable society, we inch closer to dissolving the barriers that hinder diversity and inclusion.
Bertrand, M., & Mullainathan, S. (2004). Are Emily and Greg More Employable Than Lakisha and Jamal? A Field Experiment on Labor Market Discrimination. American Economic Review, 94(4), 991-1013.
Page, S. E. (2007). The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies. Princeton University Press.
Sue, D. W., Capodilupo, C. M., Torino, G. C., Bucceri, J. M., Holder, A. M., Nadal, K. L., & Esquilin, M. (2007). Racial microaggressions in everyday life: implications for clinical practice. American Psychologist, 62(4), 271-286.