In a talk titled how Racial Bias Works and How to Disrupt It, social psychologist Jennifer L. Eberhardt deconstructs how racist narratives shape our minds from a young age, and details some of the ways in which this problematic bias, that’s so deeply ingrained in society, can be uprooted.
In the introduction, Eberhardt speaks to a time that her five year old son displayed racial bias. Despite being Black himself and being raised in a Black household, Eberhardt’s son had already learnt and recited harmful stereotypes. The young boy’s statement stuck with Eberhardt as it illuminated how early and how seamlessly young minds can be shaped by racist narratives and stereotypes.
According to Eberhardt, “Our minds are shaped by the racial disparities we see out in the world, and the narratives that help us to make sense of the disparities we see.” This statement is further supported by Eberhardt’s research, which found that these biases not only impact our minds, but our institutions. Eberhardt’s work spans from criminal courtrooms to elementary school classrooms, and in both instances, Black people were punished more severely than their white counterparts.
Eberhardt speaks to the power of friction, and encourages people to critically examine their own thoughts and behaviours as frequently as possible. However, Eberhardt admits that while self-reflection is an important tool in dismantling racism, real change can not be brought about until institutions actively seek ways to acknowledge and fight against racism. Until then, Eberhardt laments, “racial bias will continue to blind us.”