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Temitope Oriola: Unconscious bias training is not a silver bullet

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There has been significant growth in the unconscious bias training industry over the last few years. This is part of a growing tendency to recognize the role of specific beliefs, predispositions and directions to different groups of society.

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This niche industry is being somewhat “specialized” by scholars, activists, and some NGOs engaged in providing training. There is nothing wrong with providing or receiving such training. For some participants, it may simply be inconvenient or another overkill of the political left. For others, it may create a calm reflection on people’s social position and consciousness beyond their empirical reality.

However, studies on the effectiveness of such training are mixed at best. Sue Williamson and Melaya Foley argue that unconscious bias training has “unintended adverse effects” on gender equality, but is redeemable. Mike Noon of Queen Mary University describes such training as “meaningless” because it exaggerates the excellence of human agencies. Ralph Banks and Richardsford warned in a 2009 article that the real problem was “substantial inequality” in society. Their argument relies on the idea that true reform is not just about admitting the existence of prejudice. We are working to eliminate substantial inequality.

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This provides an important warning for unconscious bias training. For example, you need to eliminate a structure that allows a unit manager or head to provide one new hire $ 100,000 a year and an additional $ 75,000 for the same job with the same level of qualifications and experience.

There’s a problem — power that can’t be overlooked. In other words, laws and policies must be in place to ensure that professionals and professionals balance checks and balances in exercising their obligations and powers. In the above example, one solution would be to expose the salary range so that new hires or those wishing to relocate know the minimum and maximum salary for the position (which could soon become widespread in the United States). ), Or to allow written offers to pass through multiple layers of authority. Including related unions. The recruitment process may take longer to complete, but the resulting arc bends towards fairness.

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Bias is very important in policing, whether unconscious or not. Peel police handcuffed a 6-year-old girl’s wrist and her ankle in 2016. They put her on her stomach, “putting her hands behind her … for about 28 minutes.” Her attack was “acting violently, kicking and beating her manager.” She is not armed. Someone thought the police were the solution to the episode. Officers did not consider the response of the 6-year-old girl to play, and assumed that her hands and ankle cuffs were the appropriate response.

In another case, Waterloo’s school deployed police in November 2021 to remove a 4-year-old girl. This was a terrible situation in which Minister of Education Stephen Lecce ordered a review claiming: This state or country should be called by the police. These are a series of actions that could have been avoided if all the adults involved had a little thought in the process. The two girls have to deal with long-lasting trauma. This is rarely emphasized. It should be noted that police services are used to solve social problems that do not require law enforcement.

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Duncan Kinney of the Progress Report drew my attention to the “Managing Unconscious Prejudice” course mandated by the Edmonton Police Department. Kinney completed the course with “two clicks” and published his certificate. As mentioned in the interview with Kinney, the battle is a win or loss at the hiring stage. Unconscious bias training and seminars, no matter how comprehensive or sophisticated, do not serve as a silver bullet. It should be noted that we entrust the column act of “unconscious prejudice” that can be prevented by clear policy and strict oversight.

Temitope Oriola is a professor of criminology at the University of Alberta. Email: oriola@ualberta.ca Twitter: @topeoriola

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Temitope Oriola: Unconscious bias training is not a silver bullet

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