Whatcom County Superior Court Judge Raquel Montoya-Lewis teaches classes in unconscious or implicit bias to judges, court employees and others throughout Washington state. (Image credit: Western Washington University)
Shortly after he became Whatcom County prosecutor in January, Eric Richey asked Whatcom County Superior Court Judge Raquel Montoya-Lewis to teach an implicit bias class to everyone in his office, from secretaries to lawyers.
“I think we would be negligent not to believe that bias does not occur in our community,” Richey said in an interview with The Bellingham Herald. “We must acknowledge it and address it head-on.” Richey said he wanted everyone in his office to understand the impact of institutional bias. “I think about it in every case I handle,” Richey said. “It’s probably going to be a never-ending process.”
Montoya-Lewis is Washington State's only Native American Superior Court judge. Prior to her appointment by Gov. Jay Inslee in 2015, she was Chief Judge for the Nooksack and Upper Skagit Indian Tribes, serving on the tribal court bench for over a decade.
In her class, Montoya-Lewis, whose great-great-grandmother was from the Pueblo of Laguna tribe, indigenous people in what is now New Mexico, shares her ancestors' stories, including how they were forced to assimilate and beaten up for speaking their native language in school. “It’s a story that we talk about in our family a lot,” Montoya-Lewis told the Herald, “but it’s not something that’s talked about outside.”
She also outlines five ways to fight implicit bias at work, at school and in our communities. Watch the video to learn more about how to fight bias in your community and read more at The Bellingham Herald.