I'm reading a fascinating book titled: Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People by Mahzarin Banaji and Anthony Greenwald. These are some wicked smart Harvard University researchers in the field of psychology and social relations. My wife, Lisa, suggested the book while we were in the midst of dinner time conversations about race relations in America following the recent massacre in Charleston, SC. She had heard this NPR report. I was intrigued, and the book arrived last week.
It's a different approach to the work of racial reconciliation, but an important one in my view. Here is a paragraph from the opening chapter.
"Evidence from the second half of the twentieth century has made it increasingly plausible that human irrationality is severly limited. Our task, in this book, is to follow this idea of the bounds on rationality into a particular place - where the questions concern how we judge ourselves, other individuals and the social collectives to which they and we belong."
While the first sentence shouldn't surprise anyone who has followed public discourse in recent years, it's the second sentence that tells you where the book is going.
I'm in the middle of the book, so I can't give a full review. So far, it's a bit heavy on vignettes of various psychological studies showing how human beings have blindspots or biases. The evidence is pretty strong. The frustrating piece is that we don't know we have some of these blindspots - we can't see them. The connection to race relations is toward the end of the book, accoridng to the table of contents, so you have to be patient before the connection is made in that area.
It's a useful resource for me, as I try to figure out ways of engaging a broader audience around the subject of racial reconciliation. Most people who read this blog, think of themselves as good people. But, the truth of the matter is that we all bring assumptions and bias to our decisions. In my view, the more we can learn about how our self deception contributes to racial misunderstanding, the better off our nation will be.