(How) Should We Tell Implicit Bias Stories?

Open access


As the phenomenon of implicit bias has become increasingly widely known and accepted, a variety of criticisms have similarly gained in prominence. This paper focuses on one particular set of criticisms, generally made from the political left, of what Sally Haslanger calls “implicit bias stories”—a broad term encompassing a wide range of discourses from media discussions to academic papers to implicit bias training. According to this line of thought, implicit bias stories are counterproductive because they serve to distract from the structural and institutional factors that underlie oppression of social groups. This paper argues on the contrary that implicit bias stories, properly told, can help direct attention and concern to structural and institutional factors, and indeed may be especially helpful in motiving action. The key, however, is to tell these stories properly. When implicit bias sto- ries are told in the wrong way, they are indeed counterproductive. This paper looks in detail at several examples of good and bad implicit bias stories, examining what makes some of them counterproductive and others highly effective in motivating action to combat social injustice.

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