Monday, July 13, 2020

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Article Index

Introduction

 

In 1984, when I attended law school, I was the only black student in the 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 difficult 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 more white than medicine. 

     It is a whiteness that is dangerous, not just to mental health of the individual 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 whiteness that is unearned and undeserved. 

     Just recently, the census bureau 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.  While there are a number of problems with the statistics including 50% is still a majority,  for the purpose of this discussion I will accept this often cited mantra. People say it - "A Nation of Minorities," They say it with wonder, with expectation and with some amount of anxiousness.  News commentator comment 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 be a de facto apartheid, 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 in order to maintain its position and control?    

     How will we be a truly represented nation in 2050, if we don't begin to transfer power and wealth now - which brings me back to the whiteness in law school. 

     One place we could start preparing for the future today, is by our law school admission patterns.  If law schools continue to be sea of whiteness, than power and wealth of this society will also continue to be white. The power brokers of tomorrow are the law students of today and right now

--The Whiteness is blinding

 

Vernellia R. Randall
Founder and Editor
Professor Emerita of Law
The University of Dayton School of Law

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