John Legend unpacks racial bias with P&G's "The Look"

The singer-songwriter and activist-led a spirited discussion with one of America's youngest judges.

Racial bias, how to identify it, and how to eliminate it was unpacked by John Legend and one of the youngest circuit court judges in Wisconsin, Honorable Everett Mitchell.

The discussion was a dissection of P&G’s much talked about campaign, "The Look," and how it has influenced conversation about racial bias since its launch earlier this year. The chat included insights from Damon Jones, vice president, global communications & advocacy at Procter & Gamble, and Rashad Robinson president of Color of Change.

One of the most notable things about the campaign was the fact that it wasn’t actually an advertisement for a P&G product.

"Can you talk about why P&G wanted to make something like this that has nothing to with the actual products that it sells every day?" Legend asked. 

"It may not be central to the products that we use but it is central to our lives, particularly for people that are otherized in any shape or form," Jones said. "We really wanted to kick it off, get people together and acknowledge it -- 'the look,' and talk about it and eventually get to a position where we can combat it," he added. 

For Mitchell, who is one of the youngest black judges in the country at 42-years-old (the youngest judge in America is 29-year-old African-American woman Jasmine Twitty), "The Look" hit particularly close to home. 

"My everyday life is that video," Mitchell said.

"You are literally a judge," Legend quipped. "But you’re not wearing a robe most of the time, and you still have all the stereotypes attached to you walking around in real life outside of the courtroom, you still have to deal with the stereotypes that most black men face," he said. 

Mitchell said: "That’s right, and that’s why when I ascend to the bench and everyone has to rise before me, I make sure they see that name on the front placard, Judge Everett Mitchell.

"When I sit in that seat of power it is making sure the people that have to respond to me do so in a manner that is fair, just and equitable." 

According to Rashaad Robinson, "The Look" takes a grounded perspective at the bias that black people face on a daily basis, which is just as important as the larger scale injustices. 

"So much of our conversations can be about policy change but we also have to work to change the unwritten rules which determine how we get to live every day," he said.  

According to Jones, "The Look" was carefully crafted with nods to historical racial injustices woven into its tapestry.

"Each of those scenes presented there has historical significance, from black kids in swimming pools when black kids and white kids were not allowed to swim in the same pool together for many years to shopping while black, where black shoppers have historically been harassed and followed simply for being black, these scenes invoke all too real incidents of bias," he said. 

"We wanted scenes that people could relate to, and an important part of this was getting this balancing act just right. You don’t want to make it too egregious, because when people think about bias, they then say I don’t have a hood on and I’m not a member of the KKK so I’m not part of the problem. But this is a take on the fact that bias exists in many different shapes and sizes," Jones added. 

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