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White Privilege Conference: End Racism By Making ‘SoniaSotomayor’ Your Password

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Blake Neff Reporter
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The Daily Caller News Foundation attended the 17th Annual White Privilege Conference in Philadelphia, held April 15-17. The following is part of a series of articles concerning events at the conference.

A workshop held Sunday at the White Privilege Conference (WPC) put forward the novel idea of fixing one’s internal racism by changing their computer password to “soniasotomayor2009” or following President Barack Obama on Twitter.

“White Privilege and Implicit Bias,” presented by Washington, D.C. civil rights lawyer Arusha Gordon, was one of over a hundred workshops held at WPC, and as its name suggests it dealt with the concept of implicit bias. In contrast to explicit bias, which comes from deliberately held views (“Men are smarter than women,” for instance), implicit bias consists of unconscious reactions and assumptions a person has and results in cognitive biases.

Citing evidence from tests created by Harvard University (which one can take online), Gordon argued that implicit bias is extremely widespread throughout American society. Without realizing it, she said, doctors are less likely to prescribe aggressive treatments to black heart patients, which may contribute to the higher rate of death from heart attacks among blacks. Another study found that law firm partners would review a memo more harshly if they thought a black person wrote it.

Gordon also cited notable individual examples of alleged implicit bias, such as when Vice President Joe Biden complimented then-Sen. Barack Obama as “clean” and “articulate.”

Ending white supremacy and white privilege, Gordon said, can only occur if implicit bias is systematically torn down. To that end, she produced a worksheet with recommendations on how to reduce one’s own personal implicit racial bias. These recommendations included:

  • Changing one’s phone or computer passwords to “counter-stereotypical” images or reminders, such as “colinpowell” or “soniasotomayor2009.”
  • Changing one’s phone or desktop background to counter-stereotypical images, such as Sotomayor or a picture of a woman practicing surgery
  • Reading books or watching TV shows with counter-stereotypical characters, while avoiding shows that do the opposite.
  • Following minority leaders on Twitter
  • Making decisions under pre-set criteria to avoid relying on stereotypes
  • Hanging photos in one’s home or workplace that bear counter-stereotypical images
  • Getting to know co-workers from different backgrounds (“but beware of tokenizing others!”)
  • Telling one’s friends and co-workers all about implicit bias

Others at the workshop commented on their own experiences with implicit bias. One severely overweight woman complained that she was less likely to be taken seriously by doctors because of her weight. Another man, a teacher, denounced himself for once separating boys and girls for a class activity and sending the girls outside into the hallway, based on the (apparently unjustified) belief that they would be less likely to engage in horseplay.

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