Is Bias embedded RacISM?




I will acknowledge that this is truly a conversation I did not want to have. I am not sure of the psychological, relative nature of bias and racism, but I am warning you we’d better make sure we uncover any traces of deep, embedded, subconscious bias and hatred that could overflow into the workplace.



Let’s be clear, I do not mean bias or racism towards an ethnic group; it can be toward anyone. I am talking about the basic disrespect of persons with disabilities, veterans, LGBT orientation as well as people of color and women.

Let’s establish some definitions: According to Webster’s dictionary, bias is defined as prejudice in favor or against a thing, individual or group, usually in a way considered to be unfair. Racism is defined as the belief that all members of a race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially in a way that the race is considered inferior or superior to other races. Based on those definitions, at the most rudimentary level, bias can be the lever that activates racism.

Unfortunately, we do not often consider the impact of social injustice that occurs every day in our communities spilling over into the workplace. As Maya Angelou stated, “Believe it the first time you see it, feel it, or engage it.” It’s not a new day; it is just time for companies to recognize that it’s a cultural imperative to ensure that your employees are well grounded in the company’s belief structure, and that leaders are demonstrating inclusive behaviors every day.

Diversity MBA’s 2015 Inclusive Leadership Survey posed several new questions on how inclusion and bias is measured in the workplace. A sampling of questions include: How do you engage white males in inclusion? How is bias measured in the workplace? Is cultural competency a part of the training for your recruiters? Does your engagement survey include bias questions?

The results of this segment will be shared in one of my July blogs. But I will share with you that I am a bit disturbed about the responses we received. The time is now for a paradigm shift in our society.



  1. My company recently launched an “Understanding Unconscious Bias” mandatory eLearning across our enterprise. (about 70,000 employees). The results have been widely mixed. it frightens me that in the 21st century we are still battling with some of these questions.
    I have plenty of education both practically and in the workplace on this issue being a part of an underrepresented group myself. So I came into this launch with certain bias of my own – “people will struggle with acceptance of the LGBT and disability depictions in the training because they don’t see these as areas that should be called out.” I was astonished when I discovered how wrong I was.
    The comments from the post training survey weren’t about those specific groups, but more blatant, “We don’t have discrimination at this institution.” “Why are we wasting money on things like this, I don’t have bias?” and so on. Well, with clear lack of representation at our highest levels for women, persons of color, and LGBT, we clearly DO have some imbedded bias, and the fact that many of the employees don’t recognize that they themselves have some sort of bias, just because they are human beings accentuates that.
    My long winded question comes to this, We are doing everything but force feeding our constituents the information, resources, and activities to change the paradigm, and I know it takes time, but how do we deal with such extreme denial?

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