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 https://implicitbias.net/members.

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 http://ImplicitBias.net and follow us on Facebook at http://fb.com/implicitbias.

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
President
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 (http://www.frameworksinstitute.org) 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.