Racism is a disease that has sickened our nation since the Founding Fathers declared some to be equal and others to be less. In its 1857 Dredd Scott decision, the Supreme Court embraced the notion that a person has a right to own another. A civil war was then fought that emancipated slaves, only so that they might fall subject to Jim Crow, the Klan, lynching, and The New Jim Crow (mass incarceration). To this day, racism is ingrained into the fabric of our nation, extending beyond police brutality, into every aspect of Black life.
Even a short list of names is too long: Emmett Till, James Meredith, Martin Luther King, Jr., Rodney King, Trayvon Martin, Freddie Gray, Philando Castile, Tamir Rice, Sean Bell, Michael Brown, Sandra Bland, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. These names are not merely headlines; they are our coworkers, our neighbors, our friends, and our families. They are markers in 400 years of oppression.
As attorneys, we bear a special duty to respond to this injustice. We cannot be silent on conduct that violates our laws and deprives people of equal protection under the law. As a human being, I am deeply affected by the racist hate that has taken hold. My long-term partner is a Black man and I am a mother to Black boys. I fear for their safety and my children’s future, as would anyone seeing the violence inflicted on Black Americans every day.
We have a duty to fight racism, both as attorneys and as human beings. We must listen, learn, and act. We must listen to voices that promote racial justice. We must learn from Black members in our community. We must take action, including:
- Donating to organizations like the NAACP, ACLU, Black Lives Matter
- Readers are Leaders: a good beginning list of resources
- Watch movies to learn about racial injustice (many streaming services are currently offering them for free)
- Teaching children tools to address hate and racism
- Promoting workplace environments that do not tolerate racial hostility
- Engaging in honest dialogue with friends and family about racism
We are better than this. Silence is no longer an option. Now is the time to forge a nation in which all are truly equal.
Jennifer Ward, Esq., Managing Partner