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Beyond Woke: Why the Focus on Unconscious Bias Will Not Address Systemic Racism is a Course

Beyond Woke: Why the Focus on Unconscious Bias Will Not Address Systemic Racism

Started Nov 18, 2021

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Full course description

Thursday, November 18th, 2021 | 7:00-8:30pm (ET)-- Fully Online Lecture

Eligible for 1.5 CEs for LMHCs, Psychologists, and Social Workers.


This event is free to the public, please use the promotional code ETHICSERIES1 to register at no cost.

This event is $25 for practitioners seeking CEs for this lecture. Once you have registered for the class, your CE registration status is fixed and can not be adjusted at a later time. 


This presentation begins with a short history of the concept of unconscious bias). I track the legal, educational, and therapeutic attempts to remedy unconscious bias and the ferocious political attacks on such efforts. One such paradigmatic example was President Trump’s October 2020 executive order that effectively banned any training intended to eliminate unconscious bias at any workplace in the US that received federal monies (a ban that affected nearly every college and university in the country). Although President Biden rescinded this executive order within his first days in office, the concept of unconscious bias and the practice of unconscious bias training remain controversial – and not only to the political right. For example, in 1987, legal scholar Charles Lawrence III, introduced the notion of unconscious bias into legal theory in a paper that has become foundational to the movement known as Critical Race Theory. Lawrence has more recently expressed his concerns that a focus on unconscious bias has taken attention away from addressing systemic and ongoing racial subordination. Alongside this trenchant legal critique, we could also consider psychoanalytic pressures on the notion of unconscious bias, asking whether bias is something that could be eliminated if located in, and then extracted from, the unconscious. In this presentation, by contrast Ann Pellegrini argues that the very language of unconscious bias promises to free us from prejudice by making racial, gender, and sexual stereotypes “conscious.” But this impossible hope ignores the unconscious forces magnetized by racism (Holland, Saketopoulou). Putting psychoanalysis into conversation with Critical Race Theory and queer of color critique, Pellegrini challenges some of the enticing, yet simplistic solutions promised us by conceptualizations of unconscious bias, offering a different analytics that may more helpfully intervene by foregrounding the problem of whiteness and its investments in and by racism.

Timeline and Requirements:

This lecture will take place on Thursday, November 18th, 2021.  This lecture is presenter-led and is a fully online experience. This will be conducted synchronously online via Zoom from 7:00 pm-8:30 pm (ET). 

CE Sponsorship: 

University Counseling Services of Boston College is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. As a co-sponsor of this program, University Counseling Services of Boston College maintains responsibility for this program and its content." Participants will be eligible to receive 3 CEs units from University Counseling Services of Boston College. 

The Lynch School of Education and Human Development is providing sponsorship for CEUs for Licensed Mental Health Counselors (LMHC). Participants will be eligible to receive 1.5 CEs unit. These credits are accepted by the Massachusetts Board of Registration for Licensed Mental Health Counselors (Category I contact hours in Content Area I).

The Boston College School of Social Work is providing CEUs for Licensed Social Workers. This program has been approved for 1.5 CEU Social Work Continuing Education hours for relicensure, in accordance with 258 CMR. Collaborative of NASW and the Boston College School of Social Work Authorization Number A024.21.

Participants must attend the lecture in full and complete the post event survey to be eligible to receive CEs.

This lecture does not offer CEs for other clinicians not listed above. 

Fees & Policies:

Payment is due by credit card at registration. Registration closes November 18th at 5pm. Refunds will be granted only up until registration closes at 5pm on November 18th. No refunds will be granted for registration or technical errors on the participant's part (such as incorrect name/email, login failure, etc.).

Additional offerings from the Lynch School Professional & Continuing Education Office can be found on our website


Ann Pellegrini, PhD

Ann Pellegrini is a Professor of Performance Studies & Social and Cultural Analysis at New York University. She is the founding co-editor of the “Sexual Cultures” book series at New York University Press and former co-editor of Studies in Gender and Sexuality. She was the Freud-Fulbright Visiting Scholar of Psychoanalysis at the Freud Museum in Vienna and the University of Vienna, in 2007, and is currently a candidate in adult psychoanalysis at IPTAR in New York City.