by German Lopez
Most of the racial prejudice Americans harbor today is subtle and manifests itself in stealthier ways than it did in the past. It shows up in how employers view potential hires, how salespeople choose to assist people at high-end stores, or how teachers dole out punishments to misbehaving students. Often subconscious, these race-based evaluations of character or intelligence have wide-ranging effects.
Extensive research on the subject shows that just about everyone carries this subconscious prejudice, known as implicit bias, no matter how well-meaning they might be. In the criminal justice system, this implicit bias may contribute to the many racial disparities in law enforcement. When it comes to police officers, implicit bias is a widespread concern, precisely because of how devastating its effects can be, with trade publications and federal programs taking steps to address it through training and awareness.
There are law enforcement officials who understand how devastating the effects of implicit bias can be, but no one understands this more than the people living in communities where racial minorities are disproportionately targeted by police and arrested. The reaction to police killings since the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, then, is about more than a specific individual incident; it’s also about the overall system that makes such deaths at the hands of police disproportionately common.