Lending perspective to bias in Lynn

PHOTO BY PAULA MULLER
Lynn Police Chief Kevin Coppinger speaks during the Implicit Bias Training program, while Rev. Adrienne Berry-Burton of the Zion Baptist Church listens.

BY DILLON DURST

LYNN — Rachel Godsil says everyone has a bias, whether they’re aware of it or not.

“If you have a brain, you have a bias,” she said.

The director of research at Perception Institute, a coalition of scientists that uses research to reduce discrimination, spoke at Wednesday’s meeting between Lynn Police and the Essex County Community Organization (ECCO), a network of North Shore faith-based groups.

The gathering centered around the concept of implicit bias, or the unconscious brain’s prejudices.

Godsil, who’s also a professor at Seton Hall University School of Law in New Jersey, said the unconscious mind is more powerful than the conscious, and can process a greater amount of information. Since people are oblivious to this sector of the brain, Godsil said, they are unaware of their implicit biases.

She had the 84-person crowd participate in exercises that allowed them to experience their unconscious mind.

“Once you become aware of your bias, you’re able to slow down and correct it,” said Rev. Adrienne Berry-Burton of Lynn’s Zion Baptist Church.

“Today allowed us to open up to understanding we do have biases whether we know it or not,” added Diana Cunningham, of Bethel AME Church.

While Chief Kevin Coppinger asked members of the black community to share their issues and concerns, it’s easier said than done.

Alexandra Piñeros Shields, ECCO executive director, said 10 young black men from Raw Art Works said during Wednesday’s meeting that they’re afraid to talk to police.

“They’re taught that they’re in danger when they’re near police,” she said. “That’s important for police officers to know.”

Coppinger recalled that at an April meeting between Lynn Police and ECCO at Sacred Heart Church both sides were able to “just sit and talk” and make progress toward achieving a mutual trust. The longtime law enforcement official said members of the city’s black community were able to see officers as human beings, rather than just “big guys with guns.”

“It shouldn’t stop here,” Coppinger said of Wednesday’s progress. “I think we have amazing potential to be a model community.”


Dillon Durst can be reached at ddurst@itemlive.com.

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