I previously wrote about a class-action lawsuit against the state of Iowa alleging “implicit bias” (as opposed to overt racism) in their civil service hiring and promotion practices. Although I focused on the fact that blacks are actually not underrepresented in government jobs as compared to census data, District Judge Robert Blink ultimately dismissed the lawsuit earlier this week specifically because of the implicit bias argument:
The case relied on the theory of implicit bias, which has received growing interest among employment lawyers after researchers developed the Implicit Association Test to test racial stereotypes. Their work has found an inherent preference for whites over blacks in about 70 percent of Americans, including among many who do not consider themselves racist.
University of Washington psychology professor Anthony Greenwald, who developed the test, testified on behalf of the plaintiffs that a similar percentage of Iowa managers likely had preferences for whites and that it could be a cause of hiring discrimination in Iowa.
Blink did not find the testimony persuasive. He said that Greenwald offered no data specific to Iowa and could not estimate what percentage of hiring decisions were the result of stereotyped thinking about blacks. The judge also said implicit bias “merely reflects attitudes” and did not mean discrimination occurred.
Thomas Newkirk, the plaintiffs’ lead lawyer, plans to appeal the decision. In the mean time, Iowa has officially been declared a racism-free zone.