California Educator

March 2017

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I n the recent spate of shocking police shootings of black men, a disturbing incident occurred last July in Florida. An unarmed black man — therapist to a man with autism who' d wandered off — was told by police to lie on the ground and put his arms up in the air. He complied with the direc- tive, but an officer fired anyway, wounding him in one leg. When he asked the police officer, "Why did you shoot me?" the officer answered him with these three words: "I don't know." For Rita Cameron Wedding, it was a most telling moment — and it shows why she's motivated to train law enforcement officers and others to be aware of how implicit bias can impact decision-making. "When the police officer said 'I don't know' and admitted he had no idea of why he shot this man, it reinforced the point of my train- ing: e police officer shot this man because he looked dangerous to him," says Cameron Wedding, California Faculty Association. "It's become our cultural norm to see black men as being dangerous. It's killing people, and it has to stop." As professor of ethnic studies at Sacramento State University, where she was chair of women's studies for over 20 years, Cameron Wedding has long been aware of how race, gender and social strati- fication affect society. She has developed curriculum on implicit bias to train police, judges, district attorneys, social workers and public school staff so they can recognize their racial and cultural biases and can make positive changes. Most recently, she trained Sacramento Police Department officers. When participants first arrive at her trainings, they may be a little bit stiff and defensive. So the very first thing she does is put on music and ask them to dance. Yes, dance. It loosens them up and makes them more receptive to what she has to say. It helps that she has a radiant smile. "In the beginning, people cross their arms and tell me they don't Implicit Bias and Positive Change Rita Cameron Wedding raises awareness of racial and cultural biases By Sherry Posnick-Goodwin Photo by Scott Buschman want to be here. They say, 'I don't even notice race and gender, and treat everyone the same.' I help them to under- stand we all have unconscious biases. We tend to treat people according to race, class and gender. And we can all do something about it if we choose." Ethnic studies and women's studies are the two most controversial disciplines in the university, she muses, but her approach to teaching is anything but contentious. "My goal is to create an environment that brings people together rather than pits people against each other. I have to show I am someone who can be trusted. I do not hide my biases, but I also give the students space to examine theirs without judgment." Through the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ), Cameron Wedding has trained juvenile and family court judges on implicit bias through- out the country since 2007. Her work includes trainings for the National Association of Counsel for Children, the Chil- dren's Bureau in Washington, D.C., the Child Abuse and Neglect Institute, and the New York State Judicial Institute. NCJFCJ evidence suggests her training has had a pos- itive effect on judicial decision-making. Family judges have shared that since becoming aware of their bias, they believe they are displaying more fairness and equity in the courtroom, fewer children are being removed from their homes, and more juveniles are being given the benefit of the doubt or second chances. " We all have unconscious biases. And we can all do something about it if we choose." 13 March 2017 perspectives

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