Just days after Associate Justice Stephen Breyer announced that he would retire from the Supreme Court, President Joe Biden said that his nominee for the position would be a Black woman.

Biden’s remarks drew immediate backlash. Explicitly identifying race and gender as important factors in critical decisions—the argument went—adds bias to what otherwise should be an unbiased neutral decision process. Decades of social science research, however, document the many ways in which race and gender do matter—from biased hiring decisions, to wealth inequality, and even our most intimate romantic relationships—whether we pay attention to their impact or not.

Bias is learned. And bias manifests itself in the assumptions we make about how the social world functions. Even as children, we begin to develop representations that center white people as who we see as “default” when we think of men, boys, and girls—that is, who automatically and naturally comes to mind when we think of a category or group. These defaults set the foundation for systematic inequality in all sectors of society. For example, in many leadership positions, we tend to think of white men as the normative choice, reflecting assumptions of white people and men as cultural defaults. In fact, even as the United States has become more diverse, over 80 percent of positions of power are held by white people.

Read the full article about educating children to recognize inequity by Ryan F. Lei, Sa-Kiera T.J. Hudson, and Kathy Hirsh-Pasek at Brookings.