This semester I am enrolled in Strategic Human Resources Management. I’m finding the class to be engaging and well constructed (it can certainly be hit or miss in an online class!) and this week I have the opportunity to work through an article put out by the Harvard Business Review regarding implicit, or unconscious, bias. The authors, Mahzarin R. Banaji, Max H. Bazerman, & Dolly Chugh, encourage several tactics for confronting and overcoming unconscious bias with one tactic being to consciously change your environment.
The example they use in this part of the article seems particularly relevant for this moment in time and I would like to share it.
“We know of a judge whose court is located in a predominantly African-American neighborhood. Because of the crime and arrest patterns in the community, most people the judge sentences are black. The judge confronted a paradox. On the one hand, she took a judicial oath to be objective and egalitarian, and indeed she consciously believed that her decisions were unbiased. On the other hand, every day she was exposed to an environment that reinforced the association between black men and crime. Although she consciously rejected racial stereotypes, she suspected that she harbored unconscious prejudices merely from working in a segregated world. Immersed in this environment each day, she wondered if it was possible to give the defendants a fair hearing.
Rather than allow her environment to reinforce a bias, the judge created an alternative environment. She spent a vacation week sitting in a fellow judge’s court in a neighborhood where the criminals being tried were predominantly white. Case after case challenged the stereotype of blacks as criminal and whites as law abiding [sic] and so challenged any bias against blacks that she might have harbored.”
This passage is encouraging to me for a variety of reasons, but at this moment it is particularly hopeful because it indicates that there are those within the profession that are qualified to deliberate on the law of the land in a way that is objective.
It is no mistake that the United States Senate, the body where members have a longer tenure, confirm Supreme Court Justices. As the Congresspeople who provide the institutional memory of Congress, they should be uniquely qualified to confirm a justice that is as far above the pettiness of politics as it is possible to be. It is our responsibility to hold our senators to a high standard of decorum and ethical behavior. If we cannot do that, we need to look to ourselves. If they cannot maintain a standard we have made clear should be the norm, we need to elect new people.
If you feel as strongly as I do that Brett Kavanaugh should not be confirmed as a Supreme Court Justice, I would encourage you to call and write to your U.S. Senator. If someone who believes that any one person is above the law is sitting on the highest court in the land, there are going to be a lot of us out here who will be talking, writing, and processing through more of the same triggers that have been coming at us over breakneck speed over the last few years.