Ben & Jerry’s Asks People to Check Their Implicit Biases

ashley.rae | November 16, 2017
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Ben & Jerry’s, best known for their ice cream and their support for socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) during his presidential campaign, wants you to know you may actually be perpetuating actually racism, sexism, and ageism—even if you don’t realize it.

In a tweet, Ben & asked readers for the meaning of “implicit bias.” To explain what implicit bias actually means, Ben & Jerry’s provided a link to their own website—the one about ice cream:

Ben & Jerry’s explanation of implicit bias starts with a situation in which someone wants to go to an ice cream shop even though they already know which flavor they want. Ben & Jerry’s uses this abstract scenario to ask, “what are we missing by never challenging our deepest assumptions?”

Ben & Jerry explains that even though you may not be openly racist, sexist, or ageist, you’re still conditioned to believe in “cultural stereotypes.” Unlike many social justice academics, however, Ben & Jerry’s doesn’t accuse people of being inherently bad for holding their biases:

Culture creates stereotypes (about the elderly, about women, about peanut butter and jelly) and we’re all susceptible to them. Our implicit biases aren’t evidence of something inherently wrong with us (if you pictured a male doctor earlier, that doesn’t make you sexist; but the culture that set that bias in motion certainly is). However, when such biases go unexamined, they have a destructive effect on society.

However, the section after explaining “cultural stereotypes” goes on to say there is “systemic racism” due to those same “cultural stereotypes.” According to Ben & Jerry’s explanation, everyone has “intergroup bias” that makes them prefer their own, whether it’s “sports-team facepainting to prejudice.”

Even though Ben & Jerry’s claims people are not inherently bad for having their own biases, they have a section called “How to Make Change Happen” to teach people how to undo their inherent, allegedly natural even, biases. Ben & Jerry’s asks people to do a range of tasks in order to shed themselves of biases:

  • A good first step would be to take this implicit bias test. The results might surprise you!
  • You might also consider signing up for a “bias cleanse,” a seven-day course of emails and tasks meant to challenge your personal biases.
  • Ask yourself tough questions about your beliefs. Talk to your friends and family about implicit bias and be really honest with each other about the difference between what you believe and how you act.
  • Get to know people who aren’t members of your “in” group; have conversations, try new things (and watch this powerful video from our friends at Demos).

Bringing the example back to ice cream, Ben & Jerry’s writes, “Next time you’re in a Scoop Shop, forget about what you think you know. Open your mind and try something you’ve never had before. You’ll be surprised by how much sweeter the world will taste.”

So there you have it: the next time you’re buying ice cream, remember to check your biases.

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