Keynote 1

Fr 28.9.2018 | 18.45-19.45

Raum H

Moderation | Hanna Hacker

Shirley-Anne Tate (GB)


‘Unconscious bias happens by our brains making incredibly quick judgements and assessments of people and situations without us realising. Our biases are influenced by our background, cultural environment and personal experiences. We may not even be aware of these views and opinions, or be aware of their full impact and implications’ (ECU 2017). I speak against this point of view by arguing that bias is not unconscious but instead is linked to Charles Mills’ (1997:40) ‘Racial Contract’ and its ‘epistemologies of ignorance’. These epistemologies of ignorance emerge from what the Equality Challenge Unit (ECU) calls ‘our background, cultural environment and personal experience’. As such, asserting that racism stems from ‘unconscious bias’ diminishes white supremacy and maintains white innocence as a ‘will to forget’ institutional racism. In equality and diversity training ‘unconscious bias’ has become a technology of institutional surveillance. It has become a simulation attempting to move beyond a racialized reality to where ‘we all know better’ because we have been trained to participate in a ‘post-racial’ (Goldberg 2015) hyper-reality. I argue that it is through decolonizing ‘unconscious bias’, ‘white fragility’ and ‘self-forgiveness’ that we can begin to see hidden institutional whiteliness at the base of ‘unconscious bias’.

As a Cultural Sociologist, Professor Tate is a qualitative researcher interested in intersectional thinking. In her writing, research and teaching she draws on Black feminist, gender, critical ‘race’, queer, post colonial and Caribbean decolonial theory within her overall focus on Black Atlantic diaspora studies and emerging identifications. Shirley Tate's research and writing so far has been on the body, Black beauty, ‘critical mixed race’ and the nation, domestic and care work, beauty, Black identity, positive and negative affect, pain, anti- Black racism in organizations, food, »race« performativity, decoloniality, transracial intimacies, skin bleaching/ toning/ lightening and the politics of skin. Professor Tate’s research interests include the body, »mixed race«, domestic and care work, beauty, Black intersectional identifications, migration, affect, the culture of Britishness, food, »race« performativity, decoloniality, transracial intimacies, skin bleaching/ lightening/ toning and the politics of skin. She has for some time been developing an area ofwork on racism’s affects within the micro-practices of institutional racism which has an academic and practitioner/ activist audience in South Africa, The USA, Brazil and the UK. Her 2015 book on decolonising skin bleaching in Black Atlantic zones has had a wide academic interest within the UK and South Africa.