Life at № 42 by E.M. Coutinho
“… Each country on the map is coloured according to the average score of test takers from that country. Redder countries show higher average bias, bluer countries show lower average bias, as the scale on the top of the map shows.Like a similar map which had been made for US states, our map shows variation in the extent of racial bias – but all European countries are racially biased when comparing blacks versus whites.
In every country in Europe, people are slower to associate blackness with positive words such as “good” or “nice” and faster to associate blackness with negative concepts such as “bad” or “evil”. But they are quicker to make the link between blackness and negative concepts in the Czech Republic or Lithuania than they are in Slovenia, the UK or Ireland.”
This was from last year, but El Pais re-published a related story this week because of Salvini’s rise in Italy; so I though it might be interesting to mention it here in case any of you missed the original.
Implicit bias is a fascinating thing because it’s not based on rational thinking. I, for example, have to make a conscious effort not to be guided by the biases I absorbed as a child. As you can see from the map, my parts of the world lean to the redder end of the scale. This obviously extends to the derivative Latin American post-colonial cultures.
Consider unthinking actions like locking your car doors when someone approaches, feeling for your wallet to make sure it’s still there – essentially how one instinctively assesses “risk”. When I was little to keep me from wandering off my mother used to tell me that Gypsies stole children, and so if I wandered off they’d take me and I’d end up living in an encampment as a gypsy child. This created a mental imprint. So even if the rational me knows it’s not true, when I see a gypsy I still make a negative association.
These associations extend into most aspects of being. In northeastern Brazil much of the culture is designed around reinforcing these biases. Straight hair is attractive whilst afro-textured hair is called duro (as in hard, difficult) A narrow nose is better than a wide one. A person who has fairer skin but frizzy hair or a wide nose was said to have a foot in the kitchen. In more explicit ways, it was said that blacks were hard workers as long as well supervised. This is why many kitchens in the old houses of Bahia had basculante windows near the ceiling, opened and closed with chains or ropes – so workers weren’t distracted by things like a view or fresh air.