Racial Bias | St. Louis Public Radio

Racial Bias

An Illinois study of racial profiling in police stops is set to expire in July. State lawmakers are considering whether to keep collecting data.

Psychologists say racial profiling can cause physical and mental health issues including anxiety attacks, insomnia and nightmares.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

When Washington University student Teddy Washington and nine other black incoming freshmen were stopped by Clayton police officers in early July, the group followed the officers’ orders to prove they were not the perpetrators of a recent “dine and dash” at the nearby IHOP.

Several of the students presented their receipts to the officers before they walked back to the restaurant around midnight on July 7, with police vehicles alongside them. The manager of the IHOP confirmed to the officers they were not the suspects and the students were free to leave.

Left, Adelaide Lancaster, Georgie Herz and Aja La’Starr Owens discussed their efforts of dismantling prejudices starting at an early age through literature.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Studies indicate children are aware of gender stereotypes by age 3 and of many racial stereotypes by 4 or 5. Yet only a portion of the population is having conversations with their kids about these topics. Research also shows that white families are less likely to engage in this dialogue.

Manager Cordell Lewis manages a team of 18 at the Ferguson Starbucks, which opened in 2016.

Updated June 1 with "St. Louis on the Air" segment – St. Louis Public Radio reporter Ashley Lisenby joined the show to talk about her locally focused reporting around implicit bias as Starbucks conducted company-wide training earlier this week.

Original story from May 30:

Employees at thousands of Starbucks stores went back to work Wednesday after a half-day seminar on Tuesday focused on company policies and discrimination.

In statements to the news media, Nordstrom Rack spokeswoman said normal procedures for calling police were not followed in the May incident.
File photo

The anti-bias training that closed Starbucks stores across the U.S. for a few hours Tuesday is over. Will it change anything?

That’s what one St. Louisan is asking after he was recently racially profiled at a local Nordstrom Rack. Mekhi Lee, 19, and his two friends were shopping at the store in early May when employees accused them of stealing. Lee said they had receipts to prove they paid for items.

The incident happened a couple of weeks after two men in Philadelphia were arrested after waiting in a Starbucks, an incident that led to nationwide anti-bias training for company employees.

Calvin Lai is an assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences at Washington University as well as the director of research for Project Implicit.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

In April, the arrest of two black men at a Starbucks store in Philadelphia sparked outrage across the U.S. The incident prompted the company’s announcement that it would close thousands of stores for one afternoon this spring in order to conduct nationwide training on implicit biases.

As that training got underway on Tuesday, St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh talked with Washington University’s Calvin Lai, who is the director of research for Project Implicit.

An assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences, Lai is interested in thoughts and feelings outside of conscious awareness or control. Those thoughts and feelings can influence how we make sense of and judge other people, Lai said, and are reflective of “both the culture and the person.”

Michelle Tyrene Johnson, a reporter at KCUR in Kansas City, conducted diversity and bias training for employers for more than 15 years.

Starbucks stores across the country will be closed on Tuesday afternoon. The company announced it would use the half day to “conduct racial-bias education geared toward preventing discrimination in our stores.”

Starbucks announced the move in April after video of police arresting two black men at a Philadelphia location went viral. An employee had called police because the men, who were waiting for someone, had not ordered anything and were refusing to leave. One of the pair had asked to the use the restroom.

Lily Dayan, left, and Devin Corley, right, take part in a walkout at Kirkwood High School to protest gun violence on March 14, 2018.
Devin Corley

Kirkwood High School freshmen Devin Corley and Lily Dayan decided they were going to make a change, starting with themselves and other local teens.

At Corley and Dayan's instigation, students from across the region are set to participate Saturday in a Black Lives Matter Youth Protest at the Aloe Plaza in downtown St. Louis. 

People wait to enter the Check Your Blind Spot mobile museum outside the Express Scripts headquarters in St. Louis County on Monday, March 5, 2017.
Express Scripts

Dozens of people visited a mobile museum dedicated to educating the public about unconscious bias at the Express Scripts headquarters in north St. Louis County on Monday.

More than 350 corporate executives and university presidents signed a pledge to address unconscious bias in the workplace. Local leaders at Edward Jones, Reinsurance Group of America, Inc. and St. Louis-based manufacturing company Emerson are among companies who also signed the pledge.

(L-R) Nicole Roach, Catrina Salama and Kenneth Pruitt talked about recognizing unconscious bias, how to manage it and how that can help further understanding and inclusion.
Lara Hamdan | St. Louis Public Radio

Workplaces and institutions are implementing un-bias trainings to promote inclusivity. According to Kenneth Pruitt, director of diversity training at Diversity Awareness Partnership (DAP), training without follow-ups or contextualization can backfire.

Students linked arms to demonstrate unity during a planned walk out on Thursday afternoon. (Nov. 17, 2016)
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated Nov. 18 with corrected information about incidents — The St. Louis County NAACP is planning to host another town hall meeting to address fall-out from recent racist incidents at Ladue Horton Watkins High School, while district administrators are reaffirming their commitment to address the issues.

Doug and Drew Patchin mix paint to match Drew's skin tone before making a handprint at Temple Israel Sunday, Sept. 18 2016.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

A Jewish preschool in Creve Coeur is taking a proactive approach to talking about diversity.

Over the past few months teachers and parents with Temple Israel’s Deutsch Early Childhood Center have taken part in anti-bias workshops taught by the Anti-Defamation League.

The latest on Sunday brought the preschoolers into the mix.

Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

While Donald Trump’s vitriolic rhetoric about immigrants (calling Latino immigrants “criminals” and “rapists,” for example) has scored thousands of headlines across the globe, political scientist Zoltan Hajnal said there is a growing number of white, working class Americans who back up those kind of beliefs.

Karen Aroesty of the Anti-Defamation League of Missouri and Southern Illinois joined "St. Louis on the Air" in studio.
Áine O'Connor | St. Louis Public Radio

The Anti-Defamation League’s anti-bias program Law Enforcement and Society: Lessons of the Holocaust will mark its 10th anniversary by honoring the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, its first law enforcement partner to engage with the program.

Anyta Wilson works with students at the St. Louis Art Museum.
Nancy Fowler | St. Louis Beacon | 2013

This article originally appeared in the St. Louis Beacon. - “When you look at me, what do you see?” Anti-Defamation League program training facilitator Anyta Wilson asked a group of mostly white sixth-graders at the St. Louis Art Museum this past Tuesday.

“Girl.” “Long hair.” “Dreads.”

Accurate, yes, but Wilson pressed on: “What color am I?”

“Brown,” several replied, as Wilson nodded.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Dec. 5, 2012 - For a brief period, we are free of political advertising on television. For months, we have been inundated with negative advertisements that tarred candidates for their own faults or for guilt by association.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 25, 2012 - We call it bias-based policing. You think of it as racial profiling.  The former is unlawful. The latter is an inaccurate representation of a difficult problem addressed by statute in the state of Missouri for 12 years. 

It’s no secret that all people, including law enforcement officers, harbor racial bias. In 2000, Missouri was the fourth state to pass anti-racial profiling legislation. Thanks to that legislation, promoted significantly by the ACLU-Eastern Missouri, we now have 12 years’ worth of data on and attention paid to Missouri vehicle stops.

Raced: A trip back, then forward, in time

Feb 3, 2012

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 3, 2012 - Professor Teresa Guess has no love for the word race.

"It's my least favorite word in the English language," she says. "I see it as a very politically loaded concept that seems more to divide than it seems to unite."

Commentary: Here a system, There a system

Oct 3, 2011

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Oct. 3, 2011 - Stand facing the back of an elevator rather than the front. Walk on the left side of the sidewalk versus the right. You will be going against social norms that prop up societal systems. Note that what is perceived as "correct" is simply the path of least resistance in this society. There are places where other conventions are the norm (i.e. driving on the other side of the road).

Commentaries: No throwing babies!

Sep 21, 2010

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 21, 2010 - A string of recent news stories have been fodder for those who cannot tolerate ambiguity in relation to race. Often in our country people are criticized for being too sensitive about the topic and making something out of nothing. Yet those ambiguous events matter, and perceptions matter. It is not only unfair but also dismissive to push an issue aside simply because it does not land clearly in one camp or another in our own thinking.

Commentary: Racing to judgments on race

Aug 9, 2010

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 9, 2010 - In American politics, as in society at large, the issue of race is often likened to the proverbial 800-pound gorilla lurking in the corner. That metaphor is misleading. Race is better understood as the irritable 8,000-pound bull snorting in the middle of the living room that everybody tiptoes around, hoping not to provoke the beast.

Commentary: Ethnic studies still needed

May 13, 2010

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 13, 2010 - Arizona continues to be in the news for legislation that is possibly racially charged. The most recent source of controversy is House Bill 2281 (pdf), which would ban ethnic studies classes. More generally, it would write colorblindness into the law.

The bill states that schools cannot include courses that (1) are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group and (2) advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.

Commentary: Race, Obama and public opinion

May 3, 2010

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 3, 2010 - Was Barack Obama’s 2008 victory a historic milestone?

As recently as 1963, only 48 percent of white Americans responded “yes” to the Gallup Poll’s “if your party nominated a generally well-qualified person for president who happened to be black, would you vote for that person?” Forty-five years later, when the hypothetical scenario became an actual situation, enough white Americans (43 percent) cast their ballot for an African-American to make him a winner.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Nov. 15, 2009 - Four weeks and dozens of media interviews later, Regis Murayi, one of the six black Washington University students who were kept from entering a Chicago nightclub, has finally had a chance to catch his breath.

He has accepted an apology from Original Mother’s, the club that’s been under fire since students reported that a manager told them that their baggy pants violated its dress code. And he has spent significant time thinking about the value of dress codes, how they are worded and the ways in which they are enforced.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 17, 2009 - When police released a video of what they said was a racially motivated attack aboard a Belleville school bus on Monday, the incident became a national news item and the subject of internet bloggers. Never mind that what viewers thought they were seeing on the video wasn't entirely accurate.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 3, 2009 - As "Conversations in Black and White: A Dialogue in Race Relations" (a program at the Missouri History Museum on July 22 cosponsored by the St. Louis Beacon), unfolded before me, I marveled at the respect and openness given to each speaker. I was happy that a productive conversation was actually taking place and that blacks and whites were listening to one another as they shared their experience on race. But as the conversation progressed, a small voice inside me whispered, "Where am I in this conversation?"

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: October 13, 2008 - Can we please stop acting surprised that race matters? It's been a focal point in the media's recent discussion of the election - mostly that some people consciously or unconsciously will not vote for Obama because of his race. Don't get me wrong. I agree that race is a relevant construct in our present day. However, the media's sense of shock that their own pumping of negative stereotypes of Black men in particular, and African Americans in general, just might have an impact on the way some perceive Barack Obama is exasperating.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: September 29, 2008 - I've been struck by, well, a number of things in the past month. However, the most striking dynamic has been the consistent hypocrisy of Palin supporters crying sexism when McCain supporters have slammed Obama's camp time and time again for even mentioning race. Initially, I laughed ("Oh, now when it's convenient, it's OK to point out inequities.); then I was dumbfounded ("Seriously? You're going to play the gender card after blasting Obama and Clinton for mentioning their identities?"); and now I think I've got it.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Sen. Barack Obama is a bi-racial man running for president. Most people label him as African-American. Any way you slice it, some people do not support him solely because of his race. There, I said it.

Commentary on affirmative action: Time for a new look

Apr 11, 2008

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: I’ve decided that to achieve what Sen. Barack Obama referred to in his recent speech on race — the perfection of our union — we need to stop providing superficial remedies to social problems. I’ve begun to liken affirmative action to an anachronistic medical procedure that continues to be performed despite more advanced knowledge. It’s like treating the surface wounds and ignoring the underlying infection. Let me be clear: The need for affirmative action still exists. Unfortunately, race still powerfully affects individuals and shapes institutions. The malady still exists, but the remedy needs some updating.