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Racial Cognition and the Ethics of Implicit Bias

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Abstract

We first describe recent empirical research on racial cognition, particularly work on implicit racial biases that suggests they are widespread, that they can coexist with explicitly avowed anti-racist and tolerant attitudes, and that they influence behavior in a variety of subtle but troubling ways. We then consider a cluster of questions that the existence and character of implicit racial biases raise for moral theory. First, is it morally condemnable to harbor an implicit racial bias? Second, ought each of us to suspect ourselves of racial bias, and therefore correct for it in ordinary activity, such as grading student papers?

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