New Paper: ‘Compounded Disparities: Health Equity at the Intersection of Disability, Race, and Ethnicity’

In 2017, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine convened a roundtable on The Intersections Among Health Disparities, Health Equity, and Health Literacy and commissioned a paper to be presented at the workshop.

The Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF) was selected as the lead team in authoring the paper “Compounded Disparities: Health Equity at the Intersection of Disability, Race, and Ethnicity.”

The paper’s conclusion: “If we are going to increase health equity and improve health outcomes for people with disabilities—particularly those at the intersections of diverse race, ethnicity, and language characteristics—the covert biases and discrimination against these populations will require us to correct the false assumptions about disability, race, and ethnicity that underlie the way we deliver health care, the historical development of our public health systems, and our disregard for the health disparities experienced by some groups as a natural consequence of being in the group, rather than inequities to be corrected.”

• DREDF Senior Attorney, Silvia Yee
• DREDF Senior Policy Advisor, Mary Lou Breslin

• Tawara D. Goode with the Department of Pediatrics, Georgetown University Medical Center and National Center for Cultural Competence, Georgetown University Center for Child and Human Development
• Susan M. Havercamp with the Health Promotion and Healthcare Parity Program / Nisonger Center-UCEDD
• Willi Horner-Johnson with the Institute on Development and Disability, Oregon Health and Science University
• Lisa I. Iezzoni with the Mongan Institute Health Policy Center, Massachusetts General Hospital and the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Massachusetts General Hospital
• Gloria Krahn with College of Public Health and Human Sciences, Oregon State University

Download the full report here.

‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Episode Tackles Implicit Bias

Kelly McCreary, Grey’s Anatomy star and EJS board member, was part of last night’s episode illustrating how implicit associations between Black youth and crime lead to the murder of innocent children. The episode is heartbreaking, especially when Dr. Miranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson) and Dr. Ben Warren (Jason George) give their son “the talk.” This episode in another example of how art and popular culture can educate and enlighten audiences on issues related to race.

THR: Why ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Just Overtly Tackled Unconscious Bias 

Watch the episode online.

Kelly McCreary as Dr. Maggie Pierce

EJS coordinates the National Implicit Bias Network, a leading resource and voice on implicit bias and the phenomenon’s interaction with structural racism and the resulting inequality in areas such as the legal system, law enforcement, education, employment and housing.

Latinxs with Disabilities Fight for Recognition, Intersection

This is a guest post by Arlene B. Mayerson, Directing Attorney at Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, and a founding member of the Implicit Bias Network. 

A recent interview with the co-founder of a new national Latinxs with Disabilities advocacy group, Lisette Torres-Gerald, raises issues of interest to the National Implicit Bias Network.

The article announces an important intersectional coalition and a conference that Network members may want to attend. The article also has numerous examples of intersectional bias, without using the term “implicit bias”.

In the interview, Lisette shares:

I honestly do not think that Latinxs with disabilities are recognized in the broader disability community, other social justice movements, or even within the able-bodied Latinx community. That is why we created NCLD and why we want to be intentionally intersectional.

We want to raise awareness about the lived experiences and needs of Latinxs with disabilities. The reasons why we are rendered invisible and unheard are complex, but they definitely include ableism, racism, sexism, heteronormativity, and internalized oppression.

Our NCLD research team wants to examine, document, and share the narratives of Latinxs with disabilities to unpack and unveil why Latinxs with disabilities are excluded in conversations around race and disability.

Persons with disabilities are often subjected to the “spread effect,” which is an aspect of implicit bias. People assume that an individual’s disability negatively affects other senses, abilities or personality traits, or that the total person is impaired. For example, many people shout at people who are blind or don’t expect people using wheelchairs to have the intelligence to speak for themselves.

People with disabilities also experience micro-aggressions and stressors every day.  One of the most insidious is pity. In addition to attitudes, there are physical and communication barriers which bar participation- “belonging”.   This “othering” is compounded by racial and cultural biases for people of color with disabilities.

The “Tearing Down Walls, Building Bridges: The Disabled Latinx Movement” conference, which will be held June 16-17, 2017, on the Ed Roberts Campus in Berkeley, Calif., is co-hosted with the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund.

Introducing the National Implicit Bias Network

The Equal Justice Society has been working with social scientists, lawyers, and activists to build a national network focused on advancing the understanding of implicit bias, racial anxiety, stereotype threat, and other mind science phenomena since our inception in 2000. Since 2016, we have been focusing on creating the National Implicit Bias Network.

We started developing this network long before the presidential election and thought carefully about the context of implicit bias in a new era of increased overt racism in American society.

At the same time, we’re seeing noteworthy progress in the courts related to implicit bias. Last month, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision containing a groundbreaking acknowledgment that modern-day discrimination is more likely caused by “nuanced decisions” and implicit bias.

In Woods v. City of Greensboro, the court reinforced established precedent saying that just because plaintiffs claiming race discrimination were treated favorably in the first instance does not mean they are foreclosed from trying to prove that subsequent unfavorable treatment by the same actor is discriminatory.

It’s clear to us that we must still advance the understanding and applications of implicit bias – with a modified approach to remain relevant during an era of rising explicit discrimination.

So today we’re announcing the launch of the National Implicit Bias Network, which aspires to be a leading resource and voice on implicit bias and the phenomenon’s interaction with structural racism. We will also address other mind science phenomenon including racial anxiety and stereotype threat.

The Network will focus on implicit bias education outreach to allies in the progressive and the resistance communities to reduce structural race and gender barriers impeding progress of our movement. The Network will also be a platform for scholars, organizers, and advocates to translate academic research into practical information and tools that can be used to explain and address inequality.

We kick off the National Implicit Bias Network with a founding membership of more than 40 attorneys, jurists, social scientists, scholars, and advocates. Our initial Network family was selected organically, and not meant to represent the complete universe of implicit bias experts. If you think we missed you in this initial group of members, we want to hear from you.

We will open membership in the Network in a few months. If you’re interested in joining, visit

And later this year, we’ll be announcing details of a national convening on implicit bias and other mind science phenomenon.

In the meantime, we invite you to browse our website at and follow us on Facebook at

The National Implicit Bias Network is made possible with funding from W.K. Kellogg Foundation and The California Endowment. We thank them for their support!

Eva Paterson
Equal Justice Society

4th Circuit Decision: Implicit Bias a More Probable Cause of Discrimination Today

By Mona Tawatao, National Implicit Bias Network

A decision issued last week by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals included a groundbreaking acknowledgment that modern-day discrimination is more likely caused by “nuanced decisions” and implicit bias.

In Woods v. City of Greensboro, the court reinforced established precedent that says that just because plaintiffs claiming race discrimination were treated favorably in the first instance does not mean they are foreclosed from trying to prove that subsequent unfavorable treatment by the same actor is discriminatory.

The City first decided to enter into an economic development loan agreement with a black-owned television network, but later voted against entering into the agreement even though network had more than enough collateral to secure the loan, the City had made a loan to a non-minority business under similar circumstances. Historically, the City had made very few loans to minority businesses.

The network sued the City for race discrimination based on violation of equal protection and other claims, but the trial court dismissed the case because the City had initially recommended the owners of the network for the loan and first voted to extend the loan.

The appeals court said the trial court was wrong to dismiss the case, particularly at the initial phase of the case when the network had not had a chance to obtain more evidence from the City to prove their case.

The appeals court analogized the situation to absolving a company of wrongdoing for denying women positions once they become pregnant just because the company recruited those women to their firm in the first place.

Importantly, the appeals court explained that in this day and age, explicit, across-the-board discrimination by any one actor is highly unlikely.  Rather, discrimination is more likely to occur as the result of “nuanced decisions” and implicit bias.

Alluding to what it saw as the trial court’s flawed reasoning, the court warned that discrimination cases based on “more subtle theories of stereotyping or implicit bias” are particularly at risk of premature dismissal “should a judge substitute his or her view of the likely reason for a particular action” instead of operating under the proper standard, in this case, the rule that initial good or fair conduct does not insulate an actor from liability for subsequent discriminatory conduct.

In acknowledging the pervasiveness of implicit bias and the subtle and insidious ways that modern-day discrimination works, this case provides a solid framework for getting past the initial hurdle of stating one’s race discrimination case, when the defendant has mixed motives or the defendant’s actions have not been uniformly negative toward the plaintiff.

Mona Tawatao is a founding member of the National Implicit Bias Network and a Senior Litigator at the Western Center on Law & Poverty. Mona also co-chairs the Equal Justice Society board of directors.

Implicit Bias Part of New Guide to Framing School Discipline Reforms

School discipline has rightfully gained a high place on the agenda in efforts to create greater racial justice in education–and advocates have made remarkable progress on the issue.

Exclusionary discipline, police in schools, and “zero tolerance” policies are being rethought and revoked across the country, and advocates have sparked a shift toward more restorative approaches.

Now, in a changing policy climate, powerful frames are needed to protect those hard-fought wins and expand the number of young people who benefit from them.

Reframing School Discipline: A Strategic Communications Playbook by The Frameworks Institute ( is a timely update for the field. Download the guide.

It provides advocates with 12 framing strategies to expand the constituencies who understand and support reforms related to school climate. Its evidence-based recommendations include:

Stay in a collective action frame. School discipline reforms must consistently be framed as a shared responsibility with shared consequences. The sense of individualism runs deep in the American psyche, so advocates must take care to help the public move away from thinking that school discipline is a matter of concern only for children and their families. It impacts us all.

Unpack the chain of events that unfolds when children are removed from the classroom. By illustrating how exclusionary discipline negatively impacts students, advocates can direct the public away from default thinking that punishment works like a “dose of medicine” that leads to positive outcomes.

Talk about implicit bias. But don’t just name it; explain it. FrameWorks research shows that the public does not fully understand the role that race and racism play in creating educational disparities. Thus, simply naming the problem of disproportionate impact isn’t enough. Helping the public better understand implicit bias leads them to oppose exclusionary discipline and express a preference for more restorative approaches.

Advocates and communicators in the education, justice, and civil rights sectors can use these recommendations to challenge harmful policies, build support for reducing racial disparities in discipline, and cultivate awareness of alternative approaches such as restorative justice and trauma-informed schools.

Reframing School Discipline integrates the findings of new studies conducted with support from the Open Society Foundations Racial Equality Fund and incorporates insights from dozens of other FrameWorks studies, including projects on framing educational equity and juvenile justice reform.

About The Frameworks Institute. An independent nonprofit organization founded in 1999, FrameWorks has become known for its development of Strategic Frame Analysis ™, which roots communications practice in the cognitive and social sciences. FrameWorks designs, conducts, and publishes multi-method, multi-disciplinary communications research to empirically identify the most effective ways of reframing social and scientific topics.

Implicit Bias in the Presidential Debate

Original post

The presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on Monday night was the most watchedpresidential debate in American history. Race was a prominent theme of the debate, as it has been the whole campaign. At one point, moderator Lester Holt asked Secretary Clinton if she “believed that police are implicitly biased against black people” and Clinton responded, “Implicit bias is a problem for everyone, not just police.”

Clinton is not the only prominent public official to recognize that implicit bias is a challenge for our nation. Last year, Justice Kennedy recognized the way in which “unconscious prejudice” contributes to inequality in a landmark decision involving the Fair Housing Act. And FBI Director Comey also publicly acknowledged the overwhelming research demonstrating the presence of widespread unconscious biases, and the way in which these biases may manifest in policing.

It bodes well that these scientific findings are making their way into our public discourse. However, their meanings and implications need to be carefully understood. Clinton was right that implicit bias is an issue that impacts all Americans, but does this mean that Americans are all secretly racist? Not at all.

Bias is not simply another word for racism. Bias represents an association between things. Everyone forms associations, a process that is simply part of being human. Even animals form such associations (think of Pavlov’s dog).

“Implicit” bias refers to associations that are not fully conscious. We could not survive if all our decisions were completely subject to the conscious mind. Because the mind processes so much information, the brain has evolved to look for short cuts. This is done by habituating many of the brain’s functions, letting the unconscious process large quantities of information through lumping data together in a streamlined, rapid fashion. While the conscious mind is slow and more deliberate, the unconscious is big and very fast.

Racial bias is not innate. The associations of the unconscious mind are largely formed by our environment, society, and culture. We are exposed to many images a day, by some accounts as many as 5,000. Certain images become paired in our unconscious mind. When two images appear repeatedly and frequently, the unconscious mind will connect them. These connections are largely environmental and do not need to be connected in actual fact. The unconscious does not make such distinctions. And these connections are built up over time, a process that happens largely without our conscious awareness, and without our conscious knowledge that we are using them to influence our reactions and behavior.

Through movies, music, news, and other cultural and social sources, our society has paired images of black men with drugs and guns. It does not matter to the unconscious that black people are factually no more likely to use drugs or guns then their white counterparts. Remember, facts are not necessary for implicit bias. The mere presence of cultural stereotypes between blackness and criminality will suffice. The unconscious will reach for the paired associations with the same ease that a commuter turns the corner upon reaching her or his street. Research by social scientist Jennifer Eberhardt from Stanford has shown that when people are exposed to a black face they can more easily and quickly identify a gun than a non-crime related image, even without their conscious awareness (Dr. Eberhardt was awarded a Macarthur genius grant for her research in this area).

These are not just individual issues, therefore our response should not be about individuals. What’s critical in the conversation around policing and implicit bias, as well as all Americans and implicit bias, is to understand that while implicit bias is not the same as racism, the results of implicit bias can still produce deeply racialized outcomes. Even if the conscious mind rejects racism, the unconscious may still hold biases. And these biases are even stronger when we are under stress.

Results based on these biases can undermine our conscious desire for fairness, but they are not insurmountable. There are things we can do to lessen bias, and knowledge and training both help. In the case of police, recognizing the role of implicit bias and providing sustained training to override those biases could save lives. Who could object to saving lives through such training?

Neuroscience is clear: bias is part of being human. Racialized consequences of harmful implicit biases are not. And the content and strength of particular biases are socially constructed. Understanding the role of implicit bias in our national psyche is something that does affect all Americans and having public conversations about implicit bias, including from the platform of our presidential debate, is both powerful and promising.

For more information about implicit bias, see the Perception Institute’s work on the Science of Equality, or visit Harvard’s Project Implicit.