Everyday Bias: Identifying and Navigating Unconscious Judgments in Our Daily Lives, by Howard J. Ross, ISBN: 978-1-4422-3083-5 (cloth alk, paper), ISBN: 978-1-4422-3084-2 (electronic), Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham, Maryland, 2014, 183 pages, $30 hardcover, $29.99 e-book.
Everyday Bias: Identifying and Navigating Unconscious Judgments in Our Daily Lives should become a mandatory read for any person interacting with people—face to face, electronically, and telephonically. This nonfiction 183-page book by diversity expert Howard J. Ross is not just a book on bias. Everyday Bias is a history book, a psychology textbook, a social work textbook, a workbook, a general education textbook, an orientation workbook, a training guide, and an overall self-assessment guide and intervention plan for personal and organizational use on how to recognize and regulate unconscious bias.
The imposing and self-asserting theme of Everyday Bias revolves around getting people to understand and become conscious of their biases. Howard J. Ross takes the puzzle pieces of bias, throws them on the table, and then piece by piece, assembles the puzzle so the reader is able to see the complete picture in its entirety, which also includes you, the reader. “If you are human, you are biased.” Howard J. Ross asserts this in Chapter 1 and begins with entertaining, self-reflective stories of unconscious bias as he begins to assemble the puzzle of bias from real life scenarios.
The puzzle pieces begin to reveal the truth and show the picture about bias halfway through the book, in Chapter 4, by showing the tragic impact of unconscious bias. Ross boldly shows the impact of unconscious bias through the 2012 death of Trayvon B. Martin, by explaining how patterns of the unconscious mind affect our worldview.
The remaining pieces of the puzzle are presented in chapters on power and privilege, networks of bias, learning to disengage from bias, and how to create conscious organizations. The chapter on power and privilege explains seven types and distinctions of power, the effect of power and privilege on others, and its contribution to the development of stereotypes.
Chapter 6 focuses on networks of bias and examines bias in three significant cultural systems—the legal system, the health care system, and politics. Ross connects the pieces of the puzzle, showing how we are able to reframe or curb the influence of bias on behavior, incorporating six practices to engage to help reframe our individual patterns of bias. Even included is an appendix of puzzle pieces, providing exercises and resources to guide organizations in effectively addressing bias.
Everyday Bias is an outstanding work that belongs on the desk, coffee table, library, book bag, briefcase, and e-reader of everyone and anyone who has contact with people. Yes, we are biased and we are able to reframe our biases and reprogram our biased responses and lead productive, positive lives that influence others in a positive manner.
As a social worker and a professor who teaches courses in Public Policy and Human Behavior, I believe Everyday Bias is a necessary and a welcome read. Students of social work, social work educators, and practicing social workers embrace and assemble the puzzle of Everyday Bias to reveal how you can reframe your bias.
Reviewed by Sonja V. Harry, PhD, LMSW, ACSW, Assistant Professor of Social Work, Winston-Salem State University.