By Sevgi Fernandez – Diverse World Coaching

Implicit and explicit biases have been part of history since our inception.  We are seeing the implications of these biases throughout the world and here in the United States.  It seems to me that as we make more strides in this country towards tolerance, inclusion and equality for all i.e. electing our first Black President and legalizing same sex marriage, we become more divided as a society.
In this post, we want to continue the dialogue on implicit and explicit biases, how they are fueling current events, and how we can begin to shift them. In his latest book, Leading in a Diverse & Conflicted World: Crucial Lessons for the 21st Century, Dr. John Fernandez takes an in depth look at the development and consequences of Implicit and Explicit biases.

“People in dominant or in-power groups, through societal institutions, develop, spread, and enforce the myths and stereotypes that are the foundation for their dominant social, economic, and political position.” 

“Our explicit views and perceptions are those of which we are aware and can control.  They are the attitudes and judgements we are willing to endorse, support and consciously act upon.”

“By contrast, our implicit assumptions are those that we do not know exist and cannot control without considerable work and self- examination”

The United States as we know it was built on slavery and oppression of native people. Blacks and people of color have always been systematically oppressed be it through media portrayal, education, health care, law enforcement, employment etc..   Whites have completely dominated our society, but over the past 4 decades their dominance has begun to diminish. During this time there have been small shifts in power, especially as the number of people of color grows.  With this, the implicit stereotypes that have been ever present are becoming more clear and blatant.   Many are arguing that what we are experiencing is eerily parallel to what was happening during the civil rights movement years ago.  I’d venture to say  that we really never had a very far departure from that time.  Racism has always been present, it’s just more in your face and visible now as white dominance and power is eroding.

The deaths of Travon Martin, Michael Brown and Eric Garner along with the recent shooting of 9 blacks in a South Carolina church, are but a few of the instances that have helped galvanize new movement.  These tragedies have put the spotlight on racism not only in our communities, but on the police who have sworn to protect us..  Fortunately we have gained momentum through social activism and we are calling for accountability and forcing media coverage.

The term “biased based policing” has been coined  over the past several years.  The notion that officers act on preconceived racial bias (explicit bias) is clearly at play.  However, one can argue that implicit biases are far more dangerous than their counterparts.  Why?  We cannot hold ourselves accountable for that which we are not aware.  Often image preservation, rules, and political correctness help a person moderate their overt but not covert actions.  The filters we employ to regulate our behaviors are not in place when it comes to implicit biases, which is why they can be so dangerous and pervasive.

Implicit bias is present in all areas of the criminal justice system spanning through the police force, prosecutors, judges, juries, charges and sentencing.  The ACLU reports the following:

  • There are significant racial disparities in sentencing
  • Sentencings imposed on black males in the federal system are nearly 20% longer than those imposed on white males convicted of the same crimes
  • Black and Latino offenders sentenced in state and federal courts face significantly greater odds of incarceration than similarly situated white offenders and receive longer sentences than their white counterparts in some jurisdictions.

To further substantiate  the implications of racial bias in law enforcement we can look at Ferguson, Missouri, the city in which Michael Brown was murdered by a white police officer.  As Brad Heath states in USA Today News, “When it comes to racially lopsided arrests, the most remarkable thing about Ferguson, Missouri might be just how ordinary it is.” *

In fact, although in Ferguson the arrest rate of Blacks is three times higher than other races, that rate increases in over 1,581 police departments all over this country.  This isn’t to say that  the arrests are due only to racial discrimination, but along with socioeconomic and educational disparities the numbers indicate a serious problem and racial discrimination must play a prominent role.

When we look at this country’s infrastructure and how racism has been intertwined, it’s clear we have a long way to go.  Events such as the shootings at the Emanuel AME church in Charleston are a strong reminder of just how volatile things are.  In fact, the incident has sparked many heated debates online and in the media regarding the confederate flag.  I’ve spent many hours engaged with others on the symbolism of the flag and its place in our society.  Anyone who has spent time looking at the dialogues that have been going on has seen how truly divided we are.  There is clearly a lot of hate simply based on race.  What is possibly even more disturbing and destructive is the state of denial people are in.  For example:

“I am NOT a racist, Nor am I a bigot.  I have black and gay friends.  I DO NOT treat people of different skin color or race any different than my white friends. I am ALLOWED to have white pride”

The post above was then followed up with the following:



(I actually took these posts from a man I was debating on Facebook.  We ended our conversation with my offering my services as a coach and educator.  IF HE IS READING THIS, MY OFFER STILL STANDS.)

I think this example clearly shows the absolute denial one can have regarding their implicit biases. Try as I did, I couldn’t get him to see anything from another point of view.  Each time I offered a new way of thinking, he said if I didn’t like what he had to say I didn’t have to read it.  “Go back to where you came from!” was thrown in there too.  The problem is that if we continue to ignore, deny, and avoid the difficult discussions on racism and racial biases, we will forever be living with hate.

No RACISM or HOMOPHOBIA in any of those pics………..I guess he showed me!

For Our Followers:

Call to action: Take some time to examine your implicit and explicit biases. We all have them.  How do you think they affect your daily decisions? What do you want to change about the way you judge? Please POST here if you’re comfortable.

For more information on the book: Leading in a Diverse and Conflicted World:Crucial Lessions for the 21st Century and  Dr. John Fernandez, Click on the following links.!our-books/c215t


Fernandez, John, Phd. Leading in a Diverse and Conflicted World: Crucial lessons for the 21st Century. Philadelphia, Global Tree Publishing, 2013

Heath, Brad, Racial Gap in U.S. Arrest Rates: Staggering Disparity. USA Today, 11/19/2014

ACLU, Racial Disparities in Sentencing. Hearing Reports of Racism in the Justice System of the United States: Inter-American Commision on Human Rights, 153rd Session, October 27, 2014