Pragmatic Brain Scientist Dr. Collette P. Eccleston shares her thoughts on getting arrested for being black

A Note from Hope — It is a pleasure to introduce you to Dr. Collette Eccleston, the leader of Pragmatic Brain Science at the consulting firm LRW, where she uses theories and methods from the behavioral and social sciences to develop frameworks and measurement approaches that get at less conscious and emotional drivers of behavior.

She not only consults with internal and external clients, helping them use science to get to better insights, but the former professor of psychology at Syracuse University says: “I love mixing theory and application, making complex theories practical and accessible using them to address real business challenges.”

Collette received a B.A. in Psychology from Columbia University and her Ph.D. in Social Psychology from the University of California, Santa Barbara and has two decades of experience conducting research. At Syracuse, her research and teaching addressed stereotypes, identity and emotion.

So it is with great appreciation that we share her article on Bias Training: Why Starbucks is Right, which she published in May 29, 2018.

Collette wrote: 

It is now a familiar story: On April 12, two young African American men were arrested in a Philadelphia Starbucks, apparently for waiting while Black. Starbucks, in relatively little time, issued an apology and announced that they will close US stores on May 29 for racial bias training of approximately 175,000 employees.

Diversity training has existed in American workplaces for decades; unconscious or implicit bias training is becoming the new norm. These trainings rest on the assumption that we all have deeply embedded attitudes or associations of which we are not entirely aware and that can lead us to act in biased ways.  In the last few years, the notion of implicit bias has moved beyond purely academic circles and invoked to explain a wide range of events, from the shooting of unarmed black men to Hillary Clinton losing the presidential election. Implicit bias has also been implicated in the workplace, a contributor to the dearth of women in leadership positions, the underrepresentation of women in technology fields and the slow progress of African Americans in the corporate landscape. Given all of this, it is not entirely surprising that an increasing number of companies are offering implicit bias training.

Click here to read more.

As for what she is thinking on May 29, 2020, just days after a Minneapolis police officer was filmed kneeling on the neck of a black man named George Floyd on May 25, Collette shares:

As the life went out of him, Floyd pleaded that he couldn’t breathe, echoing the last words of Eric Garner, whose 2014 death at the hands of New York policemen helped catalyze the Black Lives Matter movement. Floyd’s death came only days after three Georgia men were arrested on charges of pursuing and killing a young black man, Ahmaud Arbery, whom they saw out running. A prosecutor had initially declined to charge the men on the grounds that their actions were legal under the state’s self-defense laws.

Interactions like the one between Christian Cooper and Amy Cooper happen not infrequently. And these kind of interactions both directly and indirectly contribute to cases like George Floyd.  It’s not hard to imagine a version of the situation where the police came and shot Christian Cooper.  Or, one in which the police came, arrested him, and then he was “in the system,” making him much more vulnerable to subsequent arrests, charges, etc. The case of Christian Cooper resonates because it reflects the kind of prejudice that happens every day in the world we live in, i.e. the world of college educated, white collar, middle/uppermiddle class, socially liberal people. There are a lot more Amy Coopers than there are rogue police officers.  For things to get better, we have to start making changes  with people like us.

Stay tuned for our conversation with Collette in an upcoming issue of Inkandescent Women.