Skepticland is a place where Science and Studies are all important. Anecdotal evidence? Bah! Not important. Especially when it comes to questions of human behavior, people want proof. This is even more true when -isms come up.
Of course it is important that we have something to back up assertions of racism, sexism, or bias. But where a lot of people go wrong is by saying that if they don’t see racism it doesn’t exist. In reality, there are studies upon studies that show evidence of bias towards people of color, women, mentally ill and disabled people, Muslims, atheists…there’s even studies that show how easy it is to manufacture bias on totally arbitrary grounds.
National conversations are currently circulating around race and gender in a big way, with many voices suggesting that we should probably stop talking about these things because racism and sexism are over, ya know? What many people seem to be missing is that beyond the incidents that are the current buzzwords, there’s years of research into bias and discrimination that shows overwhelming evidence that racism and sexism (as well as a whole lot of other -isms) exist.
So when I see people saying that racism and sexism don’t exist, or that they can’t find any evidence about bias, I have to side eye until my eyes are in actual pain. The ease with which one can find studies exploring different elements of bias is actually almost overwhelming. Yesterday, while researching studies for an article on Phactual, it took me barely an hour to find studies supporting evidence of almost every kind of bias I could think of, as well as a superabundance about race and gender.
When I see people saying that black deaths at the hands of cops are not racially motivated, all I can think of is this study showing that we’re more likely to see a harmless object as a gun when it’s held by a black person.
When someone suggests that people who are overweight aren’t discriminated against it’s for their own good/they’re just lazy/what bias, I just want to send over this study that literally shows the same individuals are treated differently at different weights.
So why are otherwise skeptical individuals suddenly incapable of Googling when questions of bias appear?
This seems to point towards the tendency of some atheists and skeptics to discount the social sciences, and the serious consequences that come from dismissing them. This isn’t simply a question of having a deeper understanding of other humans: it’s about understanding the ways in which our society has been systematically prejudiced so that we can move towards equity. If we don’t have the tools to adequately assess the current landscape of bias and prejudice, or to understand how and why bias is happening, we can’t dismantle it.
To my skeptics who are skeptical of racism and sexism: get your Google hat on. Check out all the amazing work that has been done around how people of different demographics are treated differently. And don’t come back to conversations about sexual violence, wage gaps, police violence, fair trials, torture, or really any national conversation at this moment in time until you’re better educated.