Presenting Alternative Images

An anecdote Gladwell tells in Blink Suggests the importance of presenting alternative images when attempting to construct lenses that position people of color as capable and powerful. The story revolves around the race IAT (Implicit Association Test). The race IAT is a computer-generated test that measures our implicit racial valences (http://www.implicit.harvard.edu). More than 80% of all those who take this test end up having pro-white associations (Gladwell, 2004, 84). This includes about half of the 50,000 African Americans who have taken the test. Gladwell reports that after months of taking the test daily and scoring with the majority every time, one day an IAT researcher was stunned to discover that he got a positive association with images of black people. He was deeply puzzled by this turn of events. Finally, he realized that he’d spent the morning watching the Olympics on TV. From this, he and other researcher surmised that repetitive and recent exposure to positive images of black people had affected the racist features of his adaptive unconscious and thus his response to the IAT. They extrapolated that altering our exposure to the images we come into contact with regularly is one way to alter adaptive unconscious.

Ann Berlak, Undoing Whiteness in the Classroom: Critical educultural teaching approaches for social justice activism

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