Judge Susan Craighead: The unconscious bias of white privilege

King County Superior Court Presiding Judge Susan CraigheadCrossposted from King County Youth Justice

King County Superior Court Presiding Judge Susan Craighead is one of many Court leaders encouraging the use of implicit bias training and awareness among other criminal justice leaders and their staff. Judge Craighead also serves on the Juvenile Justice Equity Steering Committee, a group collaborating on solutions to end racial disproportionalities in the juvenile justice system.

Recently, I sat next to a businessman from southern Utah on a plane. Like the rest of the country, we found ourselves reflecting on the apparently unjustified shootings of African-American men by police officers in Baton Rouge and Minneapolis. When he found out I was a judge, he was full of questions.

“Do you think police really are biased against African-Americans?” he asked me earnestly. One thing I observed about Utah is its homogeneity – it is full of blonde, blue-eyed families. No wonder this was a mystery to him.

“Well,” I said, “have you ever heard of the Implicit Association Test?”

He had not. I explained that the IAT is a 10 to 15-minute online assessment designed to measure one’s unconscious bias. You can take a test on race, on gender, on sexual orientation, on weight – there are a whole variety. The test involves sorting words and pictures by hitting certain keys on a keyboard. Bias in the test occurs when people are faster at categorizing negative words when they are paired with African-American faces, or faster at sorting positive words when they are paired with white faces – suggesting an uncontrolled mental association between negative things or concepts and African-Americans.

Read more at King County Youth Justice