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Black History Month, day 7

Project Implicit is a Harvard-based project studying the differences between the attitudes we think we hold and those we really do hold. The Implicit Association Test (IAT), developed by the researchers, claims to “[demonstrate] the conscious-unconscious divergences much more convincingly than has been possible with previous methods.” If you’re interested in the workings of your own mind, it’s fascinating.

I believe some of the barriers to racial equality are subtle racism, fear, guilt, and shame, all of which keep us from candid conversation. Certainly many of the white liberal and progressive people I know are afraid to talk about race, because they fear that they will be perceived to be, or discovered to be, racist. Knowing ourselves more fully can help us move through these barriers and toward a more honest conversation with others.

One question that interests the research team is whether people’s stated views on race match up with their unconscious attitudes, revealed through the IAT. To find out something about whether you prefer white or black people, or to take another test–others include one’s views on age, weapons, and various ethnicities–click here. And congratulations on taking the Delphic advice to know thyself.


. . . when the only reason to keep photos of the drawings seems to be so that when I look back on several months of work, I’ll remember that there are bad days. At least, that’s what I thought looking over my drawings last night. But because I was having a hard time, I tried to change things up. I drew this really dark, for example. I tend to go too light, exacerbated when the model has really light skin, and on a bad day I go lighter because I’m feeling tentative. I don’t want to commit to anything I put on paper. For the same reason, I draw more slowly when I’m thinking everything I’m doing stinks. So I forced myself to use only the darkest charcoal and work fast and with minimum pauses on this one, and it helped loosen me up.

I even ventured into territory I’ve mostly stayed out of and started drawing her face. The head is too small in proportion to the body, but each on its own is not bad. I stared at that right thigh, trying to find a change in tone in it, and whatever was there was too subtle for me. Leaving it blank makes it look flat.

The drawing I was happiest with was this one. I sweated over that first-finger knuckle. Just about gave up on its looking like anything except a glaring white circle on a dark expanse, but when I walked away and came back to look at the drawing, there it was, looking almost real. So was the vein in the arm, which I’d given up as a failure. Drawing is like magic.

An interesting problem raised by this last one: how to show the different textures of skin and cloth. I just left the cloth more or less blank–it wasn’t what interested me this time–but I’ll have to go back to it sometime. I remember having an exercise like that back in Drawing 101, a class in which I struggled mightily–no, that makes it sound like I worked really hard and wrestled with my demons, when actually what I did was mostly avoid drawing and hide from my demons. We were supposed to draw different textures, so I drew a skirt hanger with four skirts on it; one was corduroy, I recall, and one thin cotton. Maybe that would be just the thing to try again.

I wasn’t going to show the lousy ones, but that’s not fair. Here are a couple I wanted to scrunch into a ball and throw away. Stiff, tentative . . . yep, there are days like that. I had fun just the same. Also, one of the CDs played was The Ghost of Tom Joad, a Springsteen album I don’t remember hearing before. A good day after all.

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