What Does Modern Prejudice Look Like?

Harvard psychologist Mahzarin Banaji was once approached by a reporter for an interview. When Banaji heard the name of the magazine the reporter was writing for, she declined the interview: She didn’t think much of the magazine and believed it portrayed research in psychology inaccurately.

 

A patient received better treatment for saying they were a Yale professor than saying they were a quilter.

  • People recognize acts of commission (doing bad stuff to others) as prejudice, not favoritism.

 

In the book, Banaji writes that Kaplan once had a terrible kitchen accident.

.. In many ways, the psychologists’ work mirrors the conclusion of another recent book: In The American Non-Dilemma: Racial Inequality without Racism, sociologist Nancy DiTomaso asks how it is that few people report feeling racial prejudice, while the United States still has enormous disparities. Discrimination today is less about treating people from other groups badly, DiTomaso writes, and more about giving preferential treatment to people who are part of our “in-groups.”

The insidious thing about favoritism is that it doesn’t feel icky in any way, Banaji says. We feel like a great friend when we give a buddy a foot in the door to a job interview at our workplace. We feel like good parents when we arrange a class trip for our daughter’s class to our place of work. We feel like generous people when we give our neighbors extra tickets to a sports game or a show.

In each case, however, Banaji, Greenwald and DiTomaso might argue, we strengthen existing patterns of advantage and disadvantage because our friends, neighbors and children’s classmates are overwhelmingly likely to share our own racial, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds. When we help someone from one of these in-groups, we don’t stop to ask: Whom are we not helping?

 

.. Banaji tells a story in the book about a friend, Carla Kaplan, now a professor at Northeastern University. At the time, both Banaji and Kaplan were faculty members at Yale. Banaji says that Kaplan had a passion — quilting.

“She was washing a big crystal bowl in her kitchen,” Banaji says. “It slipped and it cut her hand quite severely.”

The gash went from Kaplan’s palm to her wrist. She raced over to Yale-New Haven Hospital. Pretty much the first thing she told the ER doctor was that she was a quilter. She was worried about her hand. The doctor reassured her and started to stitch her up. He was doing a perfectly competent job, she says.

But at this moment someone spotted Kaplan. It was a student, who was a volunteer at the hospital.

“The student saw her, recognized her, and said, ‘Professor Kaplan, what are you doing here?’ ” Banaji says.

The ER doctor froze. He looked at Kaplan. He asked the bleeding young woman if she was a Yale faculty member. Kaplan told him she was.

Everything changed in an instant. The hospital tracked down the best-known hand specialist in New England. They brought in a whole team of doctors. They operated for hours and tried to save practically every last nerve.

Banaji says she and Kaplan asked themselves later why the doctor had not called in the specialist right away. “Somehow,” Banaji says, “it must be that the doctor was not moved, did not feel compelled by the quilter story in the same way as he was compelled by a two-word phrase, ‘Yale professor.’ ”

Kaplan told Banaji that she was able to go back to quilting, but that she still occasionally feels a twinge in the hand. And it made her wonder what might have happened if she hadn’t received the best treatment.

Greenwald and Banaji are not suggesting that people stop helping their friends, relatives and neighbors. Rather, they suggest that we direct some effort to people we may not naturally think to help.

After reading the story about Kaplan, for example, one relative of Greenwald’s decided to do something about it. Every year, she used to donate a certain amount of money to her alma mater. After reading Kaplan’s story, Banaji says, the woman decided to keep giving money to her alma mater, but to split the donation in half. She now gives half to her alma mater and half to the United Negro College Fund.

Richard Rohr Meditation: The Source of Action

The effectiveness of action depends on the source from which it springs. If it is coming out of the false self with its shadow side, it is severely limited. If it is coming out of a person who is immersed in God, it is extremely effective. The contemplative state, like the vocation of Our Lady, brings Christ into the world. —Thomas Keating [1]

.. I founded the Center for Action and Contemplation in 1987 because I saw a deep need for the integration of both action and contemplation. Over the years, I met many social activists who were doing excellent social analysis and advocating for crucial justice issues, but they were not working from an energy of love. They were still living out of their false self with the need to win, the need to look good—attached to a superior, politically correct self-image.

They might have the answer, but they are not themselves the answer. In fact, they are often part of the problem. That’s one reason that most revolutions fail and too many reformers self-destruct from within. For that very reason, I believe, Jesus and great spiritual teachers first emphasize transformation of consciousness and soul. Without inner transformation, there is no grounded or lasting reform or revolution. When subjugated people rise to power, they often become as dominating as their oppressors because the same demon of power hasn’t been exorcised in them.

We are easily allured by the next new thing, a new agenda that looks like enlightenment. And then we discover it’s run by unenlightened people who, in fact, love themselves first of all but do not love God or others. They do not really love the Big Truth, but they often love control. Too often, they do not love freedom for everybody but just freedom for their own ideas.

Untransformed liberals often lack the ability to sacrifice the self or create foundations that last. They can’t let go of their own need for change and cannot stand still in a patient, compassionate, and humble way. It is no surprise that Jesus prayed not just for fruit, but “fruit that will last” (John 15:16). Untransformed conservatives, on the other hand, tend to idolize anything that lasts, but then avoid the question, “Is it actually bearing any fruit?” This is the perennial battle between idealism and pragmatism, or romanticism and rationalism.

If we are going to have truly prophetic people who go beyond the categories of liberal and conservative, we have to teach them some way to integrate their needed activism with a truly contemplative mind and heart. I’m convinced that once you learn how to look out at life from the contemplative eyes of the True Self, your politics and economics are going to change on their own. I don’t need to teach you what your politics should or shouldn’t be. Once you see things contemplatively, you’ll begin to seek the bias from the bottom instead of the top, you’ll be free to embrace your shadow, and you can live at peace with those who are different. From a contemplative stance, you’ll know what action is yours to do—and what is not yours to do—almost naturally.

I Learned to Love Standardized Tests

They don’t have to be basic, boring or biased. A good question provokes deep engagement.

In the past, tests such as the SAT and ACT may have resulted in discrimination against particular groups. But this doesn’t imply testing should be abandoned. The real alternative to discrimination is to have the best, fairest tests possible. That’s why these days every standardized-test question is tested for bias. Questions are judged on several scales, including their “differential item functioning”: Subgroups of students—black males, white females, suburban kids, rural ones, Southern students, students living in poverty—are controlled for overall ability. Auditors compare the performance of these subgroups, and if any of them underperform on a particular question, it’s thrown out and never used. In addition, we don’t ask questions on certain topics. We know boys do better than girls on questions about sports, and rich kids do better than poor kids on questions about sailing, so we leave those subjects out.

At Wells Fargo, Discontent Simmers Among Female Executives

Women at bank convene, allege gender bias in wealth division

About a dozen female executives in Wells Fargo WFC -0.11% & Co.’s wealth-management division gathered in Scottsdale, Ariz., in June after an internal conference. They’d had enough.

Women should be at home taking care of their children, some of the executives said they had been told over the years by Jay Welker, president of Wells Fargo’s private bank and head of the wealth-management division since 2003. Qualified women had recently been turned down for several top roles that went to male applicants. When the women raised concerns, they felt ignored.

.. The “meeting of 12” and the internal investigation show how the #MeToo movement, which has shaken up Hollywood, politics and business, is spilling into a broader discussion about whether women are being fairly promoted into senior roles where they can influence an organization’s culture.
The conversation is particularly acute in industries that, like wealth management, have long been dominated by men
.. Wells Fargo’s wealth and investment management unit, which includes the wealth-management division, was already in tumult before the gender bias investigation. Whistleblowers have alleged that financial advisers there pushed clients into products or investing platforms intended to generate more revenue for the bank and bigger bonuses for employees rather than the best returns for customers