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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings

A Bad IDEA

 

IAT

 

In 2004, while on voluntary appellate leave from the Marine Corps, I attended training for a human resources (HR) onboarding process concerning a nuclear security job. During that time, I was required to learn information that stemmed from the implicit-association test (IAT).

 

Concerning the IAT, one source describes it as “an assessment intended to detect subconscious associations between mental representations of objects (concepts) in memory.” In particular, the IAT has been used to assess implicit stereotypes.

 

For context, one source states, “A subconscious process may be provisionally defined as one of which the personality is unaware, which, therefore, is outside the personal consciousness, and which is a factor in the determination of conscious and bodily phenomena, or produces effects analogous to those which might be directly or indirectly induced by consciousness.”

 

Science neither proves nor disproves theoretical concepts such as the existence of a subconscious within the concept of one’s mind. Rather, ideas are accepted or rejected based on evidence supporting or refuting hypotheses.

 

Nevertheless, HR personnel explained that the IAT supposedly verified that each human had implicit bias embedded into the subconscious of one’s mind. Trainees weren’t even aware of how allegedly biased, prejudiced, sexist, racist, or otherwise bigoted we actually were.

 

Therefore, the purpose of our conditioning… er… training was to reveal our unrealized bigotry so that we could confront it, improve upon beliefs of which we were unaware, and conduct ourselves as more productive employees as a result of the indoctrination… uh… training.

 

Interestingly, toward the end of my employment in the nuclear security position, researchers questioned the test’s psychometric validity and reliability. Add to that almost a full decade more and one source reported:

 

It turns out the IAT might not tell individuals much about their individual bias. According to a growing body of research and the researchers who created the test and maintain it at the Project Implicit website, the IAT is not good for predicting individual biases based on just one test. It requires a collection — an aggregate — of tests before it can really make any sort of conclusions.

 

One remains uncertain about how much the HR brainwashing… um… training program cost the Department of Energy, and thus the taxpayer that funded the government entity. Consciously, I was offended by my beliefs about being labeled a bigot when I didn’t think I actually was one.

 

It remains questionable as to why people who were tasked with nuclear security were being told that we were subconsciously racist without any valid or reliable evidence to support the preposterous claim. This calls to question the morality of such training.

 

A moral is that which relates to principles of right and wrong in behavior. Morals are subjective and are used to determine what a person believes is good, bad, evil, righteous, or otherwise.

 

While others may disagree with my moral outlook, I believe that the IAT-inspired HR training I received was a bad idea. Not only was it a waste of money to try and convince me that I was something that I wasn’t, I think it’s immoral to level claims of bigotry against people without proper evidence to justify the claim.

 

White savior complex

 

I appreciate made-up concepts about as much as I welcome misuse of the IAT. However, people tend to place significant value in fashionable abstractions, so I’ll forego rigidity in favor of flexibility herein when discussing the white savior complex. According to one source:

 

White savior complex is a term that’s used to describe white people who consider themselves wonderful helpers to [b]lack, [i]ndigenous and [p]eople of [c]olor (BIPOC) — but they “help” for the wrong reasons (and sometimes end up doing more to hurt than help).

 

Keep in mind that this doesn’t refer to all white people. White savior complex, sometimes called white savior syndrome or white saviorism, refers to those who work from the assumption that they know best what BIPOC folks need.

 

Anecdotally, I’ve experienced white saviors throughout my life. Most of these people were women who I imagine truly believed they were behaving in a morally good way.

 

In elementary school, a white woman from the church congregation that my biracial sisters and I attended would bring presents to our home. She likely experienced joy from helping disadvantaged part-black and part-white children.

 

In middle school, white members from a sorority performed charitable work by donating their time to entertain residents of the children’s home in which I lived. They probably felt pleasure from being able to interact with marginalized youths.

 

In high school, at the behest of a white matriarch, a white family from the church congregation of which I was a member took me in to live with them from placement in the children’s home. They possibly experienced satisfaction with helping a poor biracial congregational member.

 

In the Marine Corps, it was predominately white women who worked for the military Family Advocacy Program alongside military police, harshly scrutinizing actions of law enforcement. They plausibly derived value from helping Marine dependents which were of varying racial and ethnic composition.

 

Then, as mentioned above, I was required to undergo HR training from a majority white-led female team, presumably acting on behalf of BIPOC personnel. These women likely experienced gratification from their efforts to essentially reprogram a majority white nuclear security force.

 

In undergraduate school a white female social worker lectured the class on our white privilege and in graduate school I encountered many white feminist women who were self-appointed “allies” for BIPOC people. I suspect each of these women believed they were doing good.

 

In a blogpost entitled Kafka Trap, I detailed how at one psychotherapeutic modality training course I attended, a white woman encouraged trainees to read books from skintellectuals such as Ibram X. Kendi and Robin DiAngelo. The trainer probably thought she was making a difference on behalf of BIPOC individuals.

 

According to one source, “People with a [w]hite savior complex think ‘[t]hey are somehow in the position that should enable them to have more power in solving the problem than the people who are impacted.” However, I reject such benevolent racism.

 

Regarding these sorts of women, I’m reminded of a scene from the fantasy drama series Game of Thrones in which Daenerys Targaryen (white woman) frees many enslaved people (overwhelmingly non-white), as they hoist her into the air while calling her “mhysa” (mother).


Photo credit, property of HBO Entertainment, fair use

 

I imagine the white savior complex scene appealed to many audience members. Still, a number of critics interpreted the act in a similar fashion as I: racially insensitive. Just as I didn’t ask or need any of the aforementioned white women to save me, I suspect other non-white people aren’t eagerly waiting for a white mhysa (sounds like mass’a; masta’) to save them.

 

IDEA

 

I practice Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) in my personal and professional life. Therefore, I’m not self-disturbed by the ideas I consider bad, such as white women ostensibly believing that non-white people need their benevolently racist acts of charity.

 

Those people who are familiar with my blog likely understand that I’m no fan of inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility (IDEA) initiatives, often referred to as “DEI” programs. I’ve written extensively about these bad IDEAs in the following blogposts:

 

 

Although I remain passionate about my disdain for DEI initiatives, I don’t upset myself with irrational beliefs about these measures which I consider to be inherently racist. Instead, I rationally write about them for the sake of psychoeducation.

 

Over the past decade or so, many people who’ve been subjected to HR-initiated DEI measures have also begun to pushback. When addressing this matter, and briefly describing what DEI is, one source opines:

 

Outside the reactionary right, there is a cohort of Americans, on both right and left, who want to eradicate illegal discrimination and remedy the effects of centuries of American injustice yet also have grave concerns about the way in which some D.E.I. efforts are undermining American constitutional values, especially on college campuses.

 

While some people may disagree with my oversimplified description, DEI initiatives are essentially actions taken to supposedly right the historical wrongs of the past. In some areas, such behavior is referred to as positive discrimination, as one source clarifies:

 

[I]t essentially refers to the automatic favouring, without proper consideration of merit, of under-represented individuals from minority groups over individuals in majority groups. Put another way, it refers to the preferential treatment of a group of people over another because they possess a protected characteristic.

 

Despite the word “positive” that makes the term sound appealing, this sort of action is still discriminatory. As an example, blacks were systematically oppressed by whites at one point historically, so DEI measures would serve to favor blacks instead of whites currently.

 

Recently, I was reminded of bad ideas of this sort when watching an episode of Dr. Phil Primetime in which a white female HR employee states, “So, ‘D,’ ‘E,’ and ‘I’ is one of the most significant and important of HR,” though she insightfully adds, “I really don’t wanna come off as a white savior.”

 

Pejoratively, DEI stands for “didn’t earn it” or “discrimination, exclusion, intimidation.” These are logical and reasonable representations of the acronym, per my opinion. Using the following syllogisms, this is why I believe these terms are accurate:

 

Form –

If p, then q; p; therefore, q.

 

Example –

If races are monolithic, then all white people are responsible for oppression faced by all black people.

 

Races are monolithic.

 

Therefore, all white people are responsible for oppression faced by all black people.

 

 

Form –

If p, then q; if q, then r; therefore, if p, then r.

 

Example –

If black people were historically oppressed by white people, then there is a need for current actions to erase historical oppression.

 

If there is a need for current actions to erase historical oppression, then DEI programs are needed as a matter of social justice.

 

Therefore, if black people were historically oppressed by white people, then DEI programs are needed as a matter of social justice.

 

Through the lens of REBT, I recognize the irrational component regarding each of these syllogisms as relating to global evaluations. Treating racial categories as a monolith isn’t an example of rational thinking.

 

Therefore, not all white people are responsible for the oppression of black people. Likewise, DEI programs which afford privilege to all non-white people serve the interest of racism—a belief that race is a fundamental determinant of human traits and capacities, and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority or inferiority of a particular race.

 

Thus, treating black people as inherently inferior while assigning them special privileges to offset perceived wrongs of the past would cause non-blacks to logically conclude that DEI represents a “didn’t earn it” course of action. The logic follows.

 

Similarly, prejudicial action against non-blacks while favoring black people through DEI initiatives, all while coercing people in the workplace to accept such behavior, would represent “discrimination, exclusion, intimidation.” Again, the logic follows.

 

Ultimately, I submit that IDEA is a bad idea. According to one source, “two-thirds of human resources specialists report that diversity training does not have positive effects, and several field studies have found no effect of diversity training on women’s or minorities’ careers or on managerial diversity.”

 

Nevertheless, HR departments across the nation continue peddling these bigoted initiatives. If a rational civilization is to conclude that discriminating against groups of people based on immutable characteristics is bad, then IDEA is a bad idea.

 

Conclusion

 

Two decades ago, when undergoing the HR onboarding process for a job in nuclear security, I was subjected to IAT-inspired training. The predominately white and female staff attempted to convince me and other new employees that we were subconsciously racist.

 

That experience reminded me of past instances involving white women who exhibited elements comprising a “white savior complex.” Years after I left the nuclear weapons facility, I continued to experience white women who peddled the same bigoted rhetoric.

 

Although I can’t accurately impugn motives, I suspect that white women who have behaved in a benevolently racist manner – evoking the soft bigotry of low expectations – throughout my life did so with charitable conscience. They also possibly received some positive feedback for their actions.

 

Practicing REBT, I’m not disturbed by my beliefs about such behavior. Nevertheless, I continue opposing bigotry – perhaps in accordance with the Stoic virtue of justice. In particular, I believe IDEA is a bad idea and I challenge the irrationality of such initiatives.

 

Herein, I’ve provided what I think is a logical and reasonable explanation as to why I dislike DEI measures. Still, I’ve not demanded what I believe others shouldn’t, mustn’t, or oughtn’t to do. People are free to be bigoted if they choose.

 

Undoubtedly, new and inventive ways to oppress people will arise throughout the remainder of my existing life. While posting poorly written blog entries about these matters, I practice unconditional acceptance.

 

This is because I acknowledge the limits of my control and influence in life. Thus, I’ve taken myself out of occupational environments in which bigoted white women force racialized agendas upon employees.

 

As well, I remain available to help people tolerate and accept the limits of their control and influence when choosing to remain in such employment settings. If you’d like to know more about how this is accomplished using REBT and how it may benefit you, I’m here to help.

 

If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life—helping you to sharpen your critical thinking skills, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.

 

As a psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues ranging from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.

 

At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!

 

 

Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW

  

References:

 

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