Black Law Students Association Hosts Talk on Implicit Bias

On February 13, at UND School of Law, the Black Law Students Association hosted a lecture about Implicit Bias Training, which featured Criminal defense attorney Marquis Bradshaw from Fargo. The program was part of the celebration of Black History Month at the law school.

 

Bradshaw graduated from Wayne State University School of Law in Detroit, Michigan, and served as a clerk at the Wayne County prosecutor’s office in Detroit before coming to North Dakota.  He has worked in North Dakota since 2013. His presentation covered topics including the different types of racism in society, the history of race in society and how it has impacted the law over time. He also talked about how far the United States has come in improving race since the Civil Rights act, but suggested there is still more progress to be done. He spoke primarily about implicit bias and used the Harvard Implicit Bias tests with the audience to help learn about biases individuals aren’t aware they have.

 

Bradshaw explained explicit bias is referred to the attitudes and beliefs individuals have about a person or group on a conscious level. When people feel threatened, they are more likely to draw group boundaries to distinguish themselves from others. Some different expressions of explicit bias are discrimination and hate speech.  Implicit/Unconscious Bias, on the other hand, is defined as a preference in which we are not aware that influences our common and everyday decisions and impressions typically resulting in subtle unintentional and unconscious discrimination. He argued no one is exempt from implicit bias. People differ on levels of unconscious bias, and are often unaware of those biases. Some of the factors he cited that impact unconscious biases are the media, family, stereotypes, lack of knowledge and personal experiences. He feels people haven’t been willing at times to step outside of their comfort zone.

 

The presentation included a video from a news story titled “Race Matters,” which showed several recent examples of implicit bias in everyday life. It highlights a recent case at a Starbucks in Philadelphia, where two African-American men were arrested for taking a table without ordering anything. The result of the case was Starbucks closing for a day to conduct company-wide implicit bias training.   

 

According to population trends, today minorities make up 34 percent of the total population, and the non-white population is expected to reach above 50 percent by 2050. Bradshaw is concerned the attorney demographics don’t match those numbers with 5 percent of attorneys who are black, and 85 percent who are white.

 

Knowing the demographics of the state, Bradshaw recommended students look for employment opportunities in North Dakota to begin a career. “North Dakota is a state with a lot of opportunities for law positions, and I have gained great experience, a wealth of experience working here. More experience than I would have received in any other state,” said Bradshaw. “Within two years of practicing here, I was managing the public defender’s office. I have handled all types of cases, and won some big cases. The experience I have received in North Dakota can be measurable. I don’t think I would have gotten that any other place. If you want to practice law, and you want to hone your skill, I believe this is the state to do it.”

 

by: Andrew Truckenmiller