Conversations about Race in the Legal Profession: The White Racial Frame

What happens when a profession that doesn’t come close to representing the demographics of diversity in America has a conversation about race? I just found out.

Because of the recent publication of my book, Everyday Injustice based on extensive interview-based research (the first in the history of US social science) about the experiences of many Latino attorneys, the editor of the American Bar Association requested an article drawing from my book for the ABA’s monthly publication. I was (and remain) honored to be invited to contribute to the journal–especially because I had the privilege of interviewing the very first Latino president of the ABA in its history!

However, I did not expect the comment stream that followed. It began with someone saying, “Waahhhhh! Waaaaahhh!” and ended with a couple of individuals spouting off typical resentful racist rants with one commentator finally stating: “Overall, I think the legal profession focuses way too much on gender and minority issues.” I hurled some comments back, so I am not blameless in the whole discussion, and most of the responses where quite supportive. Nonetheless, the two or three individuals who attacked not only my research methods and findings, but also the very importance of the discussion on the experiences of Latinos itself is very revealing.

What kinds of skews develop in perspectives and in practice when some people do not have to see other people as connected to the whole of humanity? What happens when a profession that is 90 percent white (thereby not reflective of the reality of American society) tries to have a discussion on race?

The white-generated racist realities of American society as demonstrated in Joe Feagin’s The White Racial Frame become evidently clear. Emotions surrounding the old white racist framing of Latinos and all people of color demonstrate we have a long way to go before we can see the connections between and among each other more than we focus on the differences which will lead to racial equality, at least in this is what I learned about the legal profession after contributing to the journal.