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Sunday, May 06, 2012

Upcoming Conference: Implicit Racial Bias Across the Law

Having browsed through the 2012 Entry Level Hiring Report, I am delighted that so many talented individuals will be joining our ranks as tenure-track law professors.  I look forward to meeting, learning from, and collaborating with the newest members of our community.  I am particularly pleased to see several names on the list, including that of Robert J. Smith.  Rob -- who worked under Charles Ogletree at Harvard's Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice before serving as a DePaul VAP this academic year -- will be heading to UNC School of Law this fall.

When I went on the market last year, I talked to a number of people who were instrumental in helping me secure a tenure-track faculty position.  Rob was one of them.  In addition to providing me with guidance and support, he introduced me to Justin Levinson (Hawaii).  Justin single-handedly put me in the right frame of mine to succeed at the AALS Conference.  Having completed my first year at New Mexico, I very much appreciate, and am honored by, the opportunity to be a law professor.  I can honestly say that I may not have had this position were it not for Rob and Justin's generous help. 

While some first-year law professors, myself included, hope to escape their first year on the job without asking anyone where the bathroom is and without setting their law school on fire, Rob, by contrast, is already doing amazing things.  Specifically, Rob and Justin co-edited a book, "Implicit Racial Bias Across the Law" (just published by Cambridge University Press), that explores implicit racial bias in a number of major legal contexts, such as capital punishment, education, and intellectual property.  Next month, the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute will be hosting a conference centered around the book.  I encourage readers to consider attending.  Details are below the fold:

Implicit Racial Bias Across the Law: A Book Conference

Date: Thursday, June 14, 2012, 9:00 AM
Location: Austin Hall, Ames Courtroom, Harvard Law School
Address: 1515 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA

Speakers include: Michele Goodwin (Minnesota), Melissa Hart (Colorado), Jerry Kang (UCLA), Ogletree (Harvard), Song Richardson (American), Eli Wald (Denver), Eric Yamamoto (Hawaii), and current and former federal judges.

From the conference web page:

"Despite cultural progress in reducing overt acts of racism, stark racial disparities continue to define American life. This conference considers what emerging social science can contribute to the discussion of race in American law, policy, and society. The conference will explore how scientific evidence on the human mind might help to explain why racial equality is so elusive. This new evidence reveals how human mental machinery can be skewed by lurking stereotypes, often bending to accommodate hidden biases reinforced by years of social learning. Through the lens of these powerful and pervasive implicit racial attitudes and stereotypes, the conference, designed to coincide with the launch of the book “Implicit Racial Bias Across the Law”, examines both the continued subordination of historically disadvantaged groups and the legal system's complicity in the subordination.

"The conference will bring together scholars, judges, practitioners, and community leaders to explore the issues surrounding implicit racial bias in law and policy. It will begin with a compelling overview of the social science. What does science teach us about automatic biases? And what do we still not know? Leaders in the areas of criminal justice, housing law and policy, education, and health care will then present overviews of the impact of implicit bias in their fields. Attendees will hear federal judges’ and leading scholars’ perspective on implicit bias claims in the courtroom and hear experts’ assessment of the future of implicit bias in the law. A lively afternoon session will include simultaneous break-out sessions and roundtable discussions of specific implicit bias related topics. Audience participation will be welcomed and encouraged. The conference will close with a discussion of setting a forward looking and collaborative implicit bias agenda."

Those interested may RSVP for the conference here:

Posted by Dawinder "Dave" S. Sidhu on May 6, 2012 at 08:34 AM in Books, Entry Level Hiring Report | Permalink

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This is a Conference that is especially important for this year's fall elections as "Implicit Racial Bias" plays a role in electoral processes. Thanks for the information.

But, "Dave," I wonder about your words "When I went on the market last year, ...." Is "market" an appropriate description of the hiring process in legal academia, especially for those with minority status claims? Do some in the "market" consider the process a zero sum game?

Posted by: Shag from Brookline | May 6, 2012 8:54:28 AM

@Shag -- Is there evidence that implicit racial bias, as measured by stroop tests like the IAT, "plays a role in electoral processes"? There may well be. But last I looked, the extent to which implicit bias (which most people, including racial minorities, display) translates outside the lab into real-world contexts and effects outcomes was very much an open question.

Posted by: anon | May 6, 2012 12:16:36 PM

There is evidence that implicit bias affected voting in the 2008 Presidential election (see e.g., Payne et al, 2010, http://comm.stanford.edu/faculty/krosnick/docs/2008/2008_jesp_payne_implicit.pdf). Also, Jost et al (2009) wrote a nice summary of some of the evidence that implicit bias affects real world decisions: http://www.psych.nyu.edu/jost/Jost,%20Rudman,%20Blair,%20Carney,%20Dasgupta,%20Claser,%20&%20Hardin%20(2009).PDF. Given a reasonable reading of the available evidence, the question is not whether implicit bias affects real-world judgments and decisions -- it does -- but rather when it is more and less likely to do so.

Posted by: Erik | May 6, 2012 1:17:05 PM

Shag, I have heard a wide range of professors and candidates use the terms "market" to describe the faculty hiring process, and "meat market" and "meet market" to describe the faculty recruitment conference in particular. I merely used the same, common shorthand for the process. Of course, the question becomes whether, as an initial matter, "market" is appropriate -- I confess that I do not see any problem using this term, though I would be curious to hear your thoughts on why it may be inappropriate.

Posted by: Dawinder S. Sidhu | May 6, 2012 4:19:18 PM

The term "market" referenced in a post on a Conference on "Implicit Racial Bias Across the Law" brings back recollections of markets during slave days. Of course, there's no slavery or involuntary servitude involved with a "market" on law faculty recruitment that I am aware of. I don't recall this "market" being around in the 1970-80s when I served on an adjunct faculty of a law school, as I did not seek the position. Perhaps "meat" is less desirable than "meet" to describe that market. Nor am I aware whether that market adds to the problems currently that law schools seem to be having. Perhaps we should hear from the unsuccessful candidates for an insider description of that market and how it might compare with reality shows on TV. Maybe David Kelley can come up with a "Celebrity Law Professor" reality show to add to his TV legal achievements.

Posted by: Shag from Brookline | May 6, 2012 9:28:30 PM

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