The U.S. Department of Justice is set to train its 23,000 employees and 5,800 attorneys to spot and eliminate implicit bias towards Asian Americans, Blacks and Hispanics.
According to Jeremy Wu, a retired federal worker and a member of the Committee of 100, implicit bias is based on “attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions and decisions in an unconscious matter.”
He points to mental images associated with “driving while Black or Brown,” “flying while Muslim,” or “downloading/emailing while Asian.” Asians are stereotyped as spies, Muslims as terrorists, Hispanics as illegal immigrants and Blacks as street thugs.
The Department of Justice, however, has so far refused to conduct an independent inquiry into numerous bungled spy cases targeting Chinese Americans which ultimately had to be dropped due to insufficient evidence. Asian American groups have alleged racial profiling in these cases, but the DOJ says it is unaware of “information that would indicate race, ethnicity, and national origin was a consideration in either case.”
Seattle University’s Robert Smith and Justin Levinson wrote in their paper The Impact of Implicit Racial Bias on the Exercise of Prosecutorial Discretion that “prosecutors enjoy more unreviewable discretion than any other actor in the criminal justice system.” He concluded implicit racial bias can operate at every level of the prosecution.
What impact training on implicit bias will have on such cases will be open to future debate.Public trust of the judicial system is at stake.