5 Ways Law Students Can Interrupt Implicit Bias

interrupt implicit biasLet me tell you a story about implicit bias. In 2009, I married a man I met the first day of law school. He is white. I am black. In 2010, we moved to Chicago. By various measures, Chicago is the most segregated city in the United States. Specifically, for black/white divisions, almost all the South Side of the city is black Chicagoans, and almost all the North Side is white Chicagoans. I live on the North Side with my husband and our two biracial children. Both of my children can easily pass for white.

I often walk around my North Side neighborhood with my kids. I push them in the stroller. I take them to the park. I walk them to school. And because I am black, accompanied by children who don’t very much look like me, I am often assumed, by often well-meaning parents, to be my children’s nanny. I am asked how much I am paid, when I was hired, do I have any friends looking for work, or am I looking for work. (You’d be shocked to know how many people try to steal nannies!) I was once told, “You treat them just like your own kids!”

And it’s not just what’s said. It’s what unsaid. It’s when those very well-meaning parents don’t sit next to you on the bench, because they think you are the nanny. When they don’t include you in their conversations, because they think you are the nanny. When they don’t look you directly in the eye, because they think you are the nanny. When they treat you like a stranger who just doesn’t belong. The thing is, they would never claim they were doing it on purpose, or that they were acting biased at all, until you ask them, “Why do you think I am the nanny?”

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Michelle Silverthorn

Michelle Silverthorn

Former Diversity & Education Director at Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism

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Michelle Silverthorn

Michelle Silverthorn

Former Diversity & Education Director at Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism

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