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12 January 2006 @ 03:49 pm
Fat Acceptance Survey  
A new survey indicates Americans are more willing than ever to recognize that fat can be beautiful. Yet unconscious bias still remains, in much the same way as people who are committed to racial equality can still possess unconscious racist bias. What I come away with is that we're making progress but we shouldn't rest on our laurels; there is still plenty of work to do.

What do I mean about unconscious racist bias? Consider for a moment how your unconscious mind operates. It can be likened to a sponge, sopping up everything in your environment. We are all exposed to negative stereotypes based on race, sex, religion, size, and a variety of other attributes. It all goes into the unconscious mind and it is not weighted as good or bad information. When we need to make a quick judgment about a situation, our conscious mind doesn't have time to weigh pros and cons or reject this flawed data that our unconscious mind absorbed. Of course if we're committed to equality, and we have time to think, we choose not to act on such misinformation, telling ourselves, "No, that's not true."

An on line test has been devised to force us to reveal this hidden bias by making very quick judgments and reacting within a split second to questions or situations that are presented. Even members of the target group will often reveal this cultural bias we've all been exposed to. According to the book Blink, however, if we view positive images of black people immediately before taking this test our results will show less of this bias and may even skew in favor of black people. This shows that there is hope for ridding ourselves of this bias if we can change the cultural messages we receive, especially on a long term basis. This is the principle I use in working with body image.

You can find a series of bias-revealing tests here. I also suggest checking out this project of The Southern Poverty Law Center, a bastion in the struggle to overcome racial bias and discrimination in America.