Dr Kevin Donnelly: UK consciously drops the unconscious bias

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Liz Truss, UK's International Trade Secretary in 2013. Photo: Policy Exchange/CC BY 2.0
Liz Truss, UK’s International Trade Secretary in 2013. Photo: Policy Exchange/CC BY 2.0

In an address delivered just before Christmas, the UK’s International Trade Secretary Liz Truss delivered a speech guaranteed to regain the lost confidence of those who believe the once great Conservative Party is conservative in name only.

Truss’s speech is also a reminder to Australia’s centre-right politicians about the vital importance of what John Howard calls the battle of ideas.

Truss argues the Labour Party and the Left have, for far too long, embraced identity politics and victimhood based on postmodern, critical theory where Western, capitalist societies are portrayed as inherently oppressive and where “as there is no objective view – truth and morality are all relative”.

In her role as Minister for Women and Equalities, Truss takes particular aim at the Left’s fixation with mandating training programs to eradicate unconscious bias. Designed to safeguard the rights of women, ethnic minorities or other minority groups, Truss argues such training is an example of politically correct identity politics that causes more harm than good.

Rife across UK and Australian universities, businesses and government bureaucracies, unconscious bias training is based on the assumption that those in dominant positions (usually condemned as old, white, privileged, heterosexual men), whether they know it or not and whether they intend it or not, are guilty of discriminating against those disadvantaged because of racism, sexism, gender and religious bias.

“Merit and ability are condemned as capitalist-inspired concepts reinforcing inequality and disadvantage and it should not surprise Christians, heterosexuals, white men and anyone who attended a private school are always portrayed as privileged.”

As expected, given the doctrinaire nature of cultural-left ideology, the argument is that unconscious bias is all-encompassing and embedded in the very structure of Western societies. The various forms of bias include: affinity bias, halo bias, perception bias, group think bias, status quo bias and not to be excluded confirmation bias.

Woke activists argue such bias is so pervasive that government, private and public organisations and businesses must implement strategies and policies designed to positively discriminate in favour of those the Left defines as marginalised and oppressed.

Merit and ability are condemned as capitalist-inspired concepts reinforcing inequality and disadvantage and it should not surprise Christians, heterosexuals, white men and anyone who attended a private school are always portrayed as privileged.

Equality of outcomes, instead of equality of opportunity, becomes the order of the day where government departments, businesses, corporations, medical and health services, schools and universities are expected to set quotas and targets as well as mandating politically correct re-education programs.

Equality of outcomes, instead of equality of opportunity, becomes the order of the day where government departments, businesses, corporations, medical and health services, schools and universities are expected to set quotas and targets, says Dr Kevin Donnelly.
Equality of outcomes, instead of equality of opportunity, becomes the order of the day where government departments, businesses, corporations, medical and health services, schools and universities are expected to set quotas and targets, says Dr Kevin Donnelly.

When justifying why the UK government will no longer mandate unconscious bias programs, Truss states “Study after study has shown that unconscious bias training does not improve equality, and in fact can backfire by reinforcing stereotypes and exacerbating biases” and, as a result, the Conservative Government will no longer mandate such programs.

Instead of being beneficial, Truss argues imposing quotas based on identity politics is ineffective as proven by the fact that the Conservative Party, compared to the Labour Party where quotas are mandated, “has elected two female leaders, and has a Cabinet with the highest ever level of ethnic minority representation”.

When arguing more broadly against the Left’s myopic focus on identity politics and victimhood and drawing on her own experience as a school student, Truss also notes that “while we were taught about racism and sexism, there was too little time spent making sure everyone could read and write”.

While not mentioned by Truss, another example of the British Labour Party’s irrational fixation with identity politics and quotas involves over 300 female party members resigning after the decision was made to include men who self-identified as women in the female quota for preselecting candidates.

Cultural-left identity politics and unconscious bias training are also rampant in Australia across all levels of government, businesses, universities and schools.

“[O]ur unconscious mind may not see positive behaviour or competence of an individual or group because it is not looking for it”. Whether it’s possible to identify what is unconscious is left unexplained.”

The Victorian Public Sector Commission’s ‘Guide to Removing Unconscious Bias’ warns such bias impedes the ability of managers “to make objective decisions and accurate assessments”.

Included in the list of proscribed biases is what is described as ‘Selective attention’, defined as “having perceptual blindness when not paying attention. For example, our unconscious mind may not see positive behaviour or competence of an individual or group because it is not looking for it”. Whether it’s possible to identify what is unconscious is left unexplained.

It’s common now for universities to have diversity toolkits where students are identified in terms of sex, race, religion, ethnicity and gender instead of their academic ability.

Academics are warned against being Eurocentric, patriarchal and heteronormative and told not to favour students “who see themselves as part of the dominant culture”.

One of Australia’s largest banks, Westpac, proudly proclaims itself a partner with the Victorian government and, drawing on the example of the British Civil Service, details its decision to blank out the name and gender of applicants seeking employment.

As to how Westpac responds to the UK government decision to no longer adopt such strategies, we are yet to see.