Media credit: Danielle Towers | photo editing assistant
Eberhardt said black K-12 students are three times more likely to be suspended or expelled than white students.
An author and professor of psychology at Stanford University spoke about the science of racial bias and its consequences at an event at the School of Media and Public Affairs on Friday.
Jennifer Eberhardt spoke to GW law students Friday at the School of Media and Public Affairs’ Jack Morton Auditorium about the research behind her 2019 book, “Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do”. GW Law hosted the an event as part of their orientation days for new law students and Dean Dayna Bowen Matthew and Associate Dean for Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Carmia Cesar hosted the event.
“Bias does its work in the shadows and in the open, reworking our brains, framing and distorting our relationships with each other,” Eberhardt said.
Eberhardt spoke of a series of experiments she conducted to uncover racial biases held by people in different areas of the workforce, such as police officers and teachers. She said an experiment she worked on with teachers showed that when determining punishment for repeat students, teachers were harsher on students with stereotypically black names and viewed their behavior as a role model. that they should stop.
Eberhardt also said that black K-12 students are three times more likely to be suspended or expelled as white students.
“Over time, black students worry about how they might be treated in school environments, and those concerns can affect their day-to-day interactions with teachers,” Eberhardt said. “And when these kids grow up and enter the workplace, their daily interactions are still influenced by race.”
Eberhardt said she was personally working with police in Oakland, California on ways to make it harder for bias to impact day-to-day interactions. She referenced her work with the department asking officers to question their reasoning for carrying out traffic stops and provide more details about why they made the stop on a form.
“If we did that by just having officers ask themselves a simple question before every stop they made, ‘Is this stop intelligence-led, yes or no?'” Eberhardt said. “In other words, they had to think, ‘Do I have prior evidence, prior information to link this particular person to a specific crime?’ And if the answer was yes, they had to indicate the source of this information.
Eberhardt said that after asking Oakland officers to explain their reasoning for stops, the department’s stops of black people dropped 43% in one year.
After the event, there was a short Q&A section with questions from law students, led by Matthew. Eberhardt answered questions about her experiences as a mother to black men and offered advice for people facing setbacks in their own journey to prevent their underlying biases from coming to the surface. She encouraged listeners not to run away from their own racial biases, but to confront them and work through them to wrap up the event.
“Thanks to science, we understand how prejudice works better than ever,” Eberhardt said. “Thanks to science, we understand how to disrupt it.”