The Chicago nightclub tragedy: my subconscious racism

Last weekend, there was a horrible tragedy at a Chicago nightclub in which a security guard used pepper spray to break up a fight, causing a stampede that killed 21 people (Tribune story). I began reading an article sketching the lives off each of the deceased victims. As my attention waned, I simply scanned the article rather than reading about each victim. But there was a pattern in the names of the people that I was choosing to skip over: LaToya, Charita, DaShand, Ezalle; and the names that I read: Michael, Nicole, Danielle, Robert, Kevin.

I was only reading race-neutral names and skipping names that sounded African-American.

Despite my attempts to not be racist, I still have a culture bias about who I sympathize with. My friend Mary Anne did research with a Chicago GSB prof Marianne Bertrand. Recently she published a paper finding that résumés with White names were 50% more likely to be offered interviews than résumés with Black names. It had nothing to do with qualifications: she made up fake résumés.

How do we conteract such cultural bias?

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