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.

Comments

  1. Seattle in Texas

    The legal professions, fields, and world, is so much in need of this work AND, I think it’s so incredibly awesome the data for this study was collected from the liberal white racist state of Washington. (Of course it’s a post-racial state that’s moved beyond racism…somehow. I don’t exactly know how it’s done so…but, it just has. Okay? Oh, and it’s an all white white state too!! *sarcasm*)

    In all seriousness, well I was serious above too, but in all seriousness, I hope this work helps stimulate critical thought and discussions in the world of law here in the U.S. and beyond, and serves to not only improve the experiences of Latino/a students, scholars, attorneys, etc., but other groups too, who have been marginalized in the legal profession, as well as those who have been unjustly represented and/or unjustly heard in the court of law as a result of the social incompetence and many biases mainstream white legal professionals have with regard to the lives, backgrounds, experiences, etc., of the marginalized groups they adjudicate in both criminal and civil courtrooms every single day. And in all seriousness, those racist attacks are demonstrations of those in field who are deeply committed to an unjust, white supremacist, jurisprudence system…not about liberty and justice for all, at all…. If the tables were flipped, they would find their own assertions inherently wrong and professionally, socially, and personally unethical.

    Anyway, my own thoughts. I look forward to reading this work. Most awesome. 🙂

    • cordoba blue

      @ Seattle who said:And in all seriousness, those racist attacks are demonstrations of those in field who are deeply committed to an unjust, white supremacist, jurisprudence system…not about liberty and justice for all, at all.
      LOL! I don’t think anyone is “deeply committed” to an unjust legal system. I think it’s more about lack of awareness, which is what this site is supposed to address. I don’t know any attorneys who state, “I’m deeply committed to an unjust legal system!”
      Immigrants come into this country from Mexico for economic reasons. Mexico is a very poor country, and its government is very corrupt. Mexico allows millions of its citizens to live in poverty without even trying to address this. That’s why so many Mexicans cross the border to try their luck in America. They are poor and uneducated. They need education and financial aid for college if they are going to be more equitably represented in the legal professions. If we help new Latin immigrants in those areas, we should see an increase in representation in all the professions.
      As usual, Seattle, you miss the practical solution by beating the “I hate those white supremacist liberty-stompers” drum. This hate won’t generate practical solutions as to “What can we do about the situation?” And the sarcasm always helps too. Again, follow your own advice and pass out the Prozac! LOL

      • Seattle in Texas

        *snap fingers/kick right foot to the left/fling hair to the left* *snap fingers/kick left foot to the right/fling hair to the right* *snap fingers/kick right foot to the left/fling hair to the left* *snap fingers/kick left foot to the right/fling hair to the right* http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V-xpJRwIA-Q&feature=related *snap fingers/kick right foot to the left/fling hair to the left* *snap fingers/kick left foot to the right/fling hair to the right* *snap fingers/kick right foot to the left/fling hair to the left* *snap fingers/kick left foot to the right/fling hair to the right* *snap fingers/kick right foot to the left/fling hair to the left* *snap fingers/kick left foot to the right/fling hair to the right* *snap fingers/kick right foot to the left/fling hair to the left* *snap fingers/kick left foot to the right/fling hair to the right* oh my god, I can’t stop, I’m stuck like this, *snap fingers/kick right foot to the left/fling hair to the left* *snap fingers/kick left foot to the right/fling hair to the right* *snap fingers/kick right foot to the left/fling hair to the left* *snap fingers/kick left foot to the right/fling hair to the right* I think I’m set straight–I’m fixed!!

  2. Maria Chavez Author

    Thanks for the comments. It is discouraging and scary to see how closed-minded people can be to the experiences of others. And this is coming from a group that is supposed to be analytical, yet some of the comments have little substance. Lawyers are highly educated, yet some of the comments were scathing and vitriolic. Lawyers are supposed to represent the pillars of society, and while I hesitate to generalize about the whole profession, I can’t help but feel disappointment in the resistance to learning about the experiences of others.

  3. Blaque Swan

    I agree with Seattle’s sentiments. Including the sarcasm, in all seriousness. (LOL!)

    I enjoyed the article. I only read the first 2 comments to the ABA article as what I don’t read can’t heart me. The first comment was enough of a warning to forego the rest.

    But as for learning about, and from, the experiences of others . . . On one hand, I can understand the impulse to resist such learning. Especially when it may reflect negatively on the image you’ve created of yourself and your community. On the other hand, having spent almost the entirety of my educational experience learning about the experiences of others, to whites who resist this learning I say, “Get over it and yourselves.” If for no other reason than simply to expand your mind and thinking. It’s a whole new world.

    Lastly, my sincerest congratulations on your book and the article, Maria! I feel honored, too, just because I know you – a non-lawyer Latina who’s been published in the ABA journal! I can’t wait to see you on C-SPAN’s book TV so I can point and tell everyone I know!

    In all seriousness, and my name-dropping aside, I think it’s just great, Maria. Your book, the article, and your work in general. Brava!

  4. Maria Chavez Author

    Dear Blaque Swan,

    What a wonderful way to start the week! Thanks so much for your support!! I would love to be on C-SPAN’s book TV as long as I brace myself for the backlash. You’re absolutely right that we can learn about white people all our lives but if we ask to speak our stories we are told to get over “our race thing.”

    I am honored to know you too (via rr):)

    Warmly,

    Maria

  5. Maria Chavez Author

    Seattle in Texas,

    Thanks for the congratulations. And I agree there are some really great people in the profession so it’s good not to focus on the negative few. In fact, here is a comment on the blog today that I received from a female black Canadian law school student:

    “My boss once told me the angrier and nastier they are, the more effective your argument has been. People with privilege feel insecure when their privilege is exposed. They project the insecurity by trying to prey on us. If we have not checked our internalized crap, they can be successful by implying that we are unintelligent, over-emotional, weak, narrow-minded etc… We’ve seen these tactics for centuries; and we continue to rise above.

    Maria, thank you for your article. As a Black woman in law school, I certainly appreciate your work. It has been circulating among students across Canada and I will assist in that process.

    Onwards!”

    Onward, indeed!:)

    • Seattle in Texas

      Very neat–Canada too? 🙂 That comment is definitely words of wisdom–so true. Yeah, the negative folks…the supportive folks are better to listen to–agree. Just exciting work–best wishes on this, as well as all of your future work. And yes, Onwards Onwards!! Take care

  6. Joe

    Congrats too on your important research, Maria; clearly lots of folks are listening to what you have to say in your research, and that quote does nail it. There often does seem to be a correlation between white anger on racial matters and the truth in or about those racial matters…. The emotions of racism do not get enough research. Maybe that can be one of your next projects:))

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