Pentimento: Implicit Bias, White Supremacy, and 1619

Racism!! Implicit Bias!! White Supremacy!!
400 years since the first enslaved Africans arrived!!!

Last week I was preparing to do a training on implicit bias for the attorneys who work for the California Courts of Appeal and the California Supreme Court. EJS has been doing this since 2003 when Michelle Alexander talked about this phenomenon at our Colorblind Racism Conference held at Stanford. Those were heady days. While we did not buy into the notion of post-racial America, we did feel that overt racism was on the decline.

Two weeks ago, EJS presented testimony before the House Judiciary Committee on the growth of a violent white supremacist movement alongside Dr. Abu-Salha whose Muslim daughters and son-in-law were executed on the basis of their faith.

This week the EJS legal team was in Sacramento helping move legislation that will require that court personnel be trained on how stereotypes about people of color lead to our overrepresentation in all parts of the criminal justice system.

Our new Legal Director Mona Tawatao, who started on April 15th has already been approached to have EJS file lawsuits challenging the disproportionate expulsion and suspensions of Black and Native American children —one of the entry points to the school to prison pipeline.

If one looks carefully at some paintings, one can see that sometimes there are other images that have been painted over but are still there but are not really visible to the naked eye. This is known as “pentimento.”

When trying to come up with a visual description for the implicit bias training, the concept of pentimento came to mind. What we are seeing right now is racism, murder and attacks on people of color, and disparities that harm people in all parts of life from conception to the (premature) grave. But what underlies these realities started in 1619 and even earlier for Native Americans.

During Black History Month, Professor Shauna Marshall articulated something that resonated deeply with me:  in order to sell, rape, and beat the enslaved Africans, a narrative had to be developed that we were not fully human.  That narrative continues to this day. That narrative is underneath calling Mexicans rapists; imposing a Muslim ban; and the countless acts both large and small that we have been chronicling in This Week in White Supremacy. Pentimento.

My friend Angela Blackwell reminded me of how blessed we are to be able to work to make things better.  We appreciate your interest and support of our work.

We hope that you make a financial contribution to our work and/or that you will sponsor our August 20th Remembrance at the SF Jazz Center.

Thank you.

Onward,
Eva Paterson
Co-Founder and President
Equal Justice Society