EJS 20th Anniversary – Reflecting on 2009: EJS Goes to Hollywood with Unconscious Bias Panel with Writers Guild

EJS brought many of the leading thinkers of unconscious bias together in Hollywood in 2009.

2020 is the 20th anniversary of the Equal Justice Society. Every week leading up to our 20th anniversary celebration on September 17, we will highlight one year in our history. This week we remember 2009 and going to Hollywood with a message of unconscious bias (or implicit bias, as we now call it).

In September of 2009, EJS joined the Writers Guild of America West, Screen Actors Guild, Americans for American Values and the Kirwan Institute in presenting “Reading Between the Lines: Uncovering Unconscious Bias” at the Writers Guild of America.

We brought many of the leading thinkers of unconscious bias together in Hollywood to offer insights challenging and inspiring new ideas for developing and producing programming that reflects the true diversity of our rapidly changing society.

The panelists explored how the brain processes information and how the need for quick decision often leads to faulty conclusions. Political ads from the 2008 presidential campaign were used as examples of how media can “prime” viewers to activate stereotypes and similarly, deactivate the impact of negative unconscious stereotypes. A number of ads showed candidate Obama as a menacing Black man – purposefully done to make voters afraid of him.

Norman Lear was our special guest. He produced numerous 1970s sitcoms such as All in the Family, Sanford and Son, One Day at a Time, The Jeffersons, Good Times, and Maude.

Read more about this event here.

Among our many other activities and initiatives in 2009:

  • EJS and the Impact 209 Coalition collaborated with Celinda Lake of Lake Research Partners and Drew Westen of Westen Strategies to conduct messaging and polling research regarding Californian’s feelings about diversity, inclusion and affirmative action. Although the results evidenced a wide range of opinions and some mixed feelings, they also indicated general appreciation of California’s diversity, and some willingness to support programs aimed at expanding opportunities for marginalized groups.
  • EJS organized the convening, Litigation Strategies in the Roberts Court Era, at the UC Irvine School of Law to discuss judicial trends of federal courts and strategies to improve antidiscrimination protections in future decisions.
  • EJS launches ConfirmSotomayor.org, a website aimed at major announcements, news and developments about the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court and to display syndicated content from other organizations.
  • Eva Paterson and former EJS research director Susan Serrano published a book chapter, “Cuyahoga Falls v. Buckeye: The Supreme Court’s Intent Doctrine – Undermining Viable Discrimination Claims & Remedies for People of Color” in We Dissent: Eight Cases that Subverted Civil Liberties & Civil Rights.
  • EJS authored and filed an amicus curiae brief in the U.S. Supreme Court in State v. Office of Hawaiian Affairs, arguing that the state’s commitment to reconciliation with its Native peoples requires the partial return of certain Hawaiian lands to a representative of the Hawaiian people.

We welcome sponsorships to our 20th anniversary celebration on September 17, 2020, at Herbst Theatre in San Francisco. The evening will include an oratorio by Marcus inspired by the courage of Harriet Tubman and by the two decades of EJS. Please contact Ginger Johnson at gjohnson@equaljusticesociety.org for more information. Thank you!