The people who make the news are the ones who call women “bitches,” blacks “niggers,” or gays “faggots.” Conscious prejudice still exists. But it is a vanishingly small part of the problem. The real challenge is unconscious bias. No one builds museums and memorials to its victims, however, because the perpetrators don’t wear swastikas or string people up from trees—they are ordinary, well-meaning people like you and me.
I like it in part because I’ve been feeling more and more over the past several years that discussions about prejudice, bigotry, and bias have been subsumed in our larger preoccupation with “racism,” a concept I find less useful for dealing with the day-to-day bias issues that afflict our society. Racism as I understand it is a big issue, one that shapes whole cultures, though of course racism also distorts smaller groups and individuals. I think prejudice, bigotry, and bias are better terms with which to think about and characterize the more immediate challenges our society faces in trying to improve the various ways we interact with each other. I think that figuring out what’s racist as opposed to what’s just biased could go a long way to helping us discuss these problems more productively.