Structural Racialization,
Implicit Bias, and Racial
Equity
Professor john a. powell,
Haas Diversity Research Center, Director
and The Robert D. Haas Chancellor’s Chair in Equity and Inclusion
University of California, Berkeley
Presentation for the Northwest Area Foundation
August 17, 2012
What Are the Structures
that Influence Our Society?
Education
Housing
Economic
Justice
Transportation
2
Healthcare
Food
Communications
Understanding
Structures as Systems
 These structures are not neutral
 The implicit/unconscious helps to
create them
 Structures are systems
 Systems are non-linear, complex, and
function through feedback
3
Towards Systems Thinking
 Understanding structures as
systems requires looking for
patterns and relationships
 Systems thinking necessitates
focusing on outcomes rather than
intents or inputs
4
Differential Positioning in Structures
We are all situated within structures but not evenly
These structures interact in ways that
produce differential outcomes
5
Differential Positioning in Structures
People are
impacted by the
relationships
between
institutions and
systems…
Not only are
people situated
differently with
regard to
institutions,
people are
situated
differently with
regard to
infrastructure
…but people
also impact
these
relationships
and can change
the structure of
the system.
6
Differential Positioning in Structures
 How are women situated vis-à-vis men
in the job market?
 How are people with disabilities
positioned within transportation?
 How are undocumented immigrants
positioned in the justice system?
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The Circle of Human Concern
 Differential positioning in these
structures is a way to understand who
inhabits the circle of human concern as
a full member and who is pushed out of
it
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The Circle of Human Concern
Non-public/non-private
The Circle of Human Concern
Citizens
Mothers
Children
Elderly
Felons
Undocumented
Non-public/non-private
Space
Contextualizing Disparities
 How do we understand the resulting
problems?
 Disparities in one part of a structure
are not isolated from others
 They need to be contextualized in
relation to other structures, such as
housing, education, employment,
among others
11
Mechanisms of Marginalization
 There are similar mechanisms of
marginalization within structures that
work across social groups (women,
immigrants, blacks, people with
disabilities, Native Americans)
 However, these social groups are not
uniformly positioned in structures
12
Differential Racialization
 Structural racialization is when systems and
processes produce and reproduce unequal
outcomes along racial lines with or without intent
 It is a relational process (i.e. groups are racialized
in relation to other groups)
 To go beyond the “Black-White” binary, we need
to look at the “field of racial positions” (Kim 1999)
that includes the public representation and groups
relative positioning
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Difference & Inequality
 An individual’s particular “co-formation” of race,
ethnicity, gender, sexuality, class, language,
religion, citizenship status, able-bodiedness, and
geographic location marks how they are
positioned in these structures as well as in
concepts and stories
 We can always refer to structural marginalizations
along multiple axes of difference (i.e. structural
gender marginalization)
Bacchetta, Paola. 2007
Five Faces of Oppression
1. Exploitation 2. Marginalization 3.
Powerlessness 4. Cultural
Dominance 5. Violence
Source: Young, Iris Marion (1990). “Five Faces of Oppression,” in Justice and the Politics of
Difference
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Five Faces of Oppression
 Groups are differentially situated in relation to
these forms of dehumanization
 A group may be high in one area, but low in
another
 A group’s relational positioning may also differ
in different geographies
 Oppressing others through Othering and
dehumanization become easier to do if done a
lot
16
Considering the Unconscious Mind
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Back to the Future
 There is strong evidence that we are
becoming more racially tolerant on a
conscious level
 Yet, more racially anxious on an
unconscious level
18
The Role of the Unconscious Mind
• People are meaning-making
machines.
•Individual meaning
•Collective meaning
•Only 2% of emotional cognition
is available to us consciously
We unconsciously
think about race even
when we do not
explicitly discuss it
• Racial bias tends to reside in the
unconscious network
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Our Brains in Action
Please state the color of the text
Blue
Red
Green
Black
Green
Red
Blue
Black
Black
Blue
Green
Red
Green
Green
Black
Blue
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The Stroop Test
And now, in Greek
If you are a Greek speaker, this will show this works in any language.
If you are not – how much easier it is now! But why?
Remember: state the colour of the text













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


The Stroop Test
Awareness Test
Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yrqrkihlw-s
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Understanding
Implicit/Unconscious Bias
 People’s conscious values and beliefs
are only part of how they process
information and make decisions
 Many biases affecting behavior
towards others reside in the
unconscious mind
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Understanding
Implicit/Unconscious Bias
 In other words, people who
consciously value racial or other forms
of equality can act and make decisions
based on biases without even being
aware that they have any biases at all
 Implicit/unconscious bias is when a
person’s actions are motivated by
unconscious processes.
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How Implicit/Unconscious Bias
Leads to Discrimination
 When one holds a negative
stereotype about a group and
meets someone who fits the
stereotype s/he may discriminate
against that individual
 It occurs even among persons who
are not consciously prejudiced
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Priming
 Our environment affects our unconscious networks
 Priming activates mental associations
 Telling someone a scary story activates a frame of fear
 Claude Steele’s“stereotype threat”:
 For example, tell students about to take a test that Asian
students tend to do better than whites, and the whites will
perform significantly worse than if they had not been primed to
think of themselves as less capable than Asians.
26
Source: http://www.eaop.ucla.edu/0405/Ed185%20-Spring05/Week_6_May9_2005.pdf
Counteracting Unconscious
Prejudice and Stereotypes
 Individuation: focus on the individual
attributes of specific person versus
categorization or perceiving person
through filter of their social group
Source: Burgess, Van Ryn, Dovidio, and Saha, J Gen Intern Med (2007); Williams, 2012
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Social Cognition: Warmth and
Competence
High
Pity :
women,
elderly,
disabled
Esteemed:
Your own group,
who you
identify with
Warmth
Low
Despised:
African
Americans,
Undocumented
immigrants
Low
Competence
Envied:
Competent, but
don’t really like
them: Asians
High
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Source: Douglas Massey. Categorically Unequal: The American Stratification System. New York: Russell Sage Foundation. 2007.
Bringing Together Implicit Bias
and Structural Racialization
Implicit Bias
Culture and
Communication
Structural
Racialization
Systems Approach
Power
Organizing
The Problems of Race Neutral
Poverty Programs and Policies
 Poverty interventions must consider the multiple
underlying mechanisms of marginalization
 When purportedly ‘neutral’ programs and policies
for poverty alleviation are overlaid on already
racialized practices, norms, and institutional
arrangements, it is likely to not only leave such
arrangements undisturbed, but perpetuate and
exacerbate them
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Imagining a New Paradigm
 What is an alternative vision?
 A model where we all grow
together
 A model where we embrace
collective, yet differentiated
solutions
 A vision that requires collective
action to be successful
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Towards Targeted Universalism
 This strategic framework starts with
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identifying the universal goals for all
in education, health, civil rights,
employment, etc.
 Our strategies much be targeted
based on the different situatedness
of groups
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Towards Targeted Universalism
 The framework should support the
identification of specific obstacles in
particular geographies and
structures and stories that limit
certain populations from reaching
those goals
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Towards Targeted Universalism
 Strategies are tailored to address the
specific needs and situatedness of
targeted populations
 They may be geographically particular
based on needs and resources in different
locations
 It is difficult to effectively benefit one
group while leaving others marginalized
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Towards Targeted Universalism
 Strategies often work on multiple
scales based on the nature of the
problem
 They enable networks of institutions
(funders, service providers,
advocacy groups) with different
assets/contributions to work
together through linkages
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Creating Interventions
 Interventions need to focus on the following:
 Targeting structures and (un)conscious bias
 Healing the breach of exclusion created through
racialized disparities
 Creating a process of inclusion based on fairness
 A focus on racial equity has broader implications
for social relations and systems in our society
 These disparities effect the well-being of our
entire society, not just marginalized
communities
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Creating Interventions
 If structural conditions are informed by implicit
bias, then what is the organizational structure
that can engage this?
 How do you strategically fund to address this?
 Analyze the problems, create multi-scalar
interventions, and fund to build capacity
 This necessitates a flexible network, not just
organizations or coalitions
 It also needs funding over the long term
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Reflections on Situatedness
 How are we each differentially situated in
structures?
 How do our own conscious and unconscious
biases affect our philanthropic work?
 Where are the groups we fund situated?
 How are we situated vis-à-vis the groups we
fund?
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Challenges in Practice
 In light of differential situatedness, how are collective
decisions made regarding the targeted allocation of
resources to different groups to meet universal goals?
 What are the challenges of framing and allocating
resources in this way?
 For example, can perceived notions of scarcity be
overcome by framing investments in a particular group
as also investments in the social fabric of our society?
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Challenges in Practice
 While targeted universalism provides is an
important framework for developing
communications and informing policy and
programming, it will not do all of the necessary
work
 What other strategies need to be considered to
deal with unintended consequences,
unanticipated resistance, implementation
problems, etc.?
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