I grew up in Texas during Jim Crow. During that time, going on long-distance road trips had a distinct flavor for Blacks, and I remember it vividly - the packing enough food for the entire trip (no restaurants), the using the bathroom on the side of the road (no gas station bathrooms), the sleeping in the car on the side of the road (no motels). But my most vivid memory of my road trips in Texas was the sign I read every time we went through Greenville, Texas -
The Blackest Land,
The Whitest People
In many ways, institutional discrimination in law schools is about maintaining the legal profession as "The Whitest Profession."
In 1984, when I attended law school, I was the only black student in my first-year class. Everywhere I looked, day-in and day-out, a sea of white faces. The stress of law school was significant; the stress of being the only black person, at times became unbearable. At one point, when I had a most challenging day:
- a day when I had to listen to young white students discuss "loudly" the inherent unfairness of affirmative action a hundred times;
-a day when my constitutional law professor decided to teach about hate crime and used a situation involving the words "Nigger" as an example
-a day when the contract professor used a case where a "welfare mother" had furniture repossessed and being a former and current "welfare mother," I was positive that all eyes had turned to look at me.
-a day when for the first time, a case in criminal law mentioned race and you guessed it - it was a black man raping a white woman
-a day when . . . so many racialized things happened.
A day not much different than my other days - but I suddenly found the sea of Whiteness unbearable. I want to get away, but I couldn't, I had a class. I wanted to cry - but where could I get some privacy. I remember this day so clearly because I ended up in a bathroom stall crying my eyes out!
Law Schools, for the most part, are a sea of Whiteness.
A sea of Whiteness that contributes to the legal profession being whiter than medicine.
It is a whiteness that is dangerous, not just to the mental health of the person of color that gets caught in it, but also to our society. It is an overwhelming display of power and control, maintaining a predominance of unearned and undeserved Whiteness.
The census bureau recently released information predicting that by the year 2050, we will be a nation of minorities. According to the census bureau, in 2050, white non-Latinos will make up 50 percent of the population, with Latinos accounting for 24 percent, African Americans 15 percent, and Asian Americans 8 percent. will accept this often-cited mantra for this discussion. People say it - "A Nation of Minorities," They say it with wonder, with expectation, and with some amount of anxiousness. News commentator comments on it, but no one takes the next step and asks- So what?
So, what if we will be a nation of minorities?
Are we going to be a nation in which no group has a disproportionate share of wealth and power?
Or will we become a de facto apartheid, similar to South Africa? Like South Africa, will the wealth and power of a nation be centered in a numerical minority? Will the numerical minority become even more oppressive to maintain its position and control?
How will we be a truly representative nation in 2050 if we don't begin to transfer power and wealth now.
One place we could start preparing for the future is by ensuring a legal system as diverse as our population. Suppose law schools continue to be a sea of Whiteness. The power brokers of tomorrow are the law students of today, and right now
--The Whiteness is blinding!