How to Stop the Racist in You

The new science of bias suggests that we all carry prejudices within ourselves—and we all have the tools to keep them in check.

Prawny/Adobe Stock

In 2016, in the wake of racially charged bloodshed in Baton Rouge, Minneapolis, and Dallas, the city of Cleveland hosted the Republican National Convention.

There Iowa Rep. Steve King argued that only whites had made contributions to civilization, while other “sub-groups” did not. Asked to clarify his remarks, King—who keeps a Confederate flag on his desk—did not back down. “The Western civilization and the American civilization are a superior culture,” he said, deliberately associating “Western” and “American” with white. No leader at the convention publicly disavowed King’s assertion.

This is just one example of the polarizing public language that meets the dictionary definition of “racist”—“having or showing the belief that a particular race is superior to another.” King’s argument is an example of explicit, conscious prejudice, when someone outwardly expresses, through words or behavior, a view denigrating a particular group.

But what explains the fact that police departments are more likely to use force against black suspects than white ones, at a time when so many departments are consciously trying to reduce these discrepancies? What could explain why companies explicitly committed to diversity show racial bias in hiring decisions? Why…

Read More


Get practices, tips, and special offers delivered straight to your inbox

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
About the author

Jeremy Adam Smith

Jeremy Adam Smith is editor of the Greater Good Science Center’s website and author of the book The Daddy Shift.

About the author

Rodolfo Mendoza-Denton

Rodolfo Mendoza-Denton, Ph.D., is the Richard & Rhoda Goldman Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Berkeley. He is coeditor (with Jason Marsh and Jeremy Adam Smith) of Are We Born Racist? New Insights from Neuroscience and Positive Psychology.