A problem with “implicit bias” theory is that it has its own implicit bias of the cognitivist and/or politically liberal variety. In short, the question of detecting “implicit bias” is inexorably tied to a supposed “solution” (or “acceptable” range of solutions) that is less explicitly discussed, thereby denying the political character of how the question is formulated in the first instance. While no doubt the elimination of bias/discrimination/oppression is important, it is possible to question whether advocacy of political liberalism under the guise of “neutral” science is worthwhile to those ends. Conservatives, who are mostly the problem in terms of advocating for biased institutions, obviously oppose this stuff because they realize it is set up to be against them and their desired hierarchies of inequality. Moreover, offering political liberalism as the solution to the problem of bias has the subtle effect of excluding liberalism from being part of the problem — especially if liberalism is seen as being about limiting/softening but still maintaining the sorts of hierarchies of inequality that conservatism seeks. So consider what follows a critique of “implicit bias” theory from a left perspective.
“Implicit bias” theory also fails to address Hannah Arendt‘s notion of the “banality of evil”. In precisely the same way Arendt characterized the Nazi functionary Adolph Eichmann not as a monster but as a stupid man seeking career advancement without concern for the impact his “career” as an administrator for concentration camps had on others, most “bias” is applied in order to obtain something (economic capital, social capital, etc.) within a framework of social constructs. Most academics seem to exclude the “banality of evil” from “implicit bias” as a matter of definition. In this way, it is of no surprise that any link between supposed “implicit bias” and biased conduct has failed to hold up to empirical scrutiny, because the “implicit bias” theory focuses on a kind of conduct that is rare (monstrous bias for its own sake, unconnected to the accumulation of forms of capital), and avoids confronting the more common type of morally ambivalent, malignantly narcissistic social ambition in which people simply have no empathy or concern for effects on others.
Perhaps the key thing that “implicit bias” theory (and liberalism in general) fails to address is precisely what Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote about in his Discourse on the Origins of Inequality: “This destructive potential of envy is the base of Rousseau’s well-known distinction between egotism, amour-de-soi (that love of the self which is natural), and amour-propre, the perverted preferring of oneself to others in which a person focuses not on achieving a goal, but on destroying the obstacle to it [quoting Rousseau, juge de Jean-Jacques, first dialog] . . . An evil person is thus not an egotist, ‘thinking only about his own interests’. A true egotist is too busy taking care of his own good to have time to cause misfortune to others. The primary vice of a bad person is that he is more preoccupied with others than with himself.” Cite: “The Cologne Attacks Were an Obscene Version of Carnival”
All too often “implicit bias” programs take for granted unequal power, refuse to combat unequal power (if they don’t outright bolstering it), and merely offer at most coping/defense mechanisms to the enablers and agents of power structures.
What is really lacking are programs to address how bigots should cope with the loss of privilege, coupled with (political) programs to distribute power/capital equally and eliminateprivileges. That is, people who have psychological desires that are furthered by biases need to be helped to change their desires, which is very difficult. This seems to only happen at the fringes, if at all. One example of an attempt in this direction is Judith Katz‘s book White Awareness. See also The Best of Enemies: Race and Redemption in the New South.
Selected quote: “This paper explores a number of these popular explanations for the racial wealth gap, looking at individual differences in education, family structure, full- or part-time employment, and consumption habits. In each case, we find that individual choices are not sufficient to erase a century of accumulated wealth: structural racism trumps personal responsibility.”