It’s time for change. Since the untimely death of George Floyd, thousands of voices have paraded across our nation in the form of widespread protests, vulnerable news articles, arduous social media posts, and stomach-wrenching, viral videos.
Of all the sides taken, of all the claims and blaming and arguments, one thing is for certain. It’s time for change.
The African American community has responded, crying out for change within the criminal justice system. Systemic racism has plagued our country, and the fear of further violence has the black community rising up to see American leaders address – with action – the unthinkable, unimaginable acts that have gone on long enough.
The struggles don’t stop in the legal world, either. Black lawyers are consistently overlooked and female lawyers are interrupted more often. From law school to the corporate world, minorities face numerous obstacles regardless of university and company commitments to diversity. This invisible labor clause means longer hours and heftier administrative duties all to avoid unwarranted stereotypes.
There’s a real issue when lawyers who aren’t male and white are often told, “You don’t look like a lawyer.” It brings up the ideology of systemic racism. There may be plenty of people out there in corporate America who aren’t racist, but at the end of the day – culture speaks loudly. This culture MUST change.
In fact, according to a 2019 demographic study by the American Bar Association, only 5% of lawyers in America are black and 36% of attorneys are women.
Those percentages were similar in 2009. That’s 10 years of dormancy, and in my mind, if you’re not moving forward, you’re falling behind. Nobel Peace Prize winner, William Faulkner, said “The past is not dead. In fact, the past is not even the past.”
Gender and white privilege is real, and it’s going to take more than protests (albeit necessary) to see a shift. Not only do people of color and women need to confidently pave their way towards representation, but those graced with instant acquisition must be willing to let us in the front – not the back – door. Systemic racism persuades us to cling to like-minded, homogeneous groups, and both sides must fight back. In the same way choosing an esteemable act shifts your focus from inward to outward, making habitual choices to choose unity will train your mind to celebrate differences rather than avoid them.
And speaking of esteemable acts, there’s a strategy to changing yourself, thereby changing the world around you. It starts with YOU. It starts with admitting that everyone has blindspots, and that you, too, might be wrong. It’s time to lean in, ask the hard questions, and have the tough conversations. That goes for the legal community, too. We need to ask ourselves why black and woman lawyers are so few. We need to ask ourselves what image we expect, and change that image if needed. If we’ve learned anything from the past few weeks, it’s that we need proof of progress, and we need it NOW.
Until next time, I’m Francine D. Ward – Your Work. Your Property. Your Dream. Protected and Moving Forward.
Francine D. Ward
Attorney-At-Law, Author, Speaker
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