While words matter, they are only words without intentional action.
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Last updated: January 15, 2021 | Originally published on June 3, 2020.
Sadly, the numbers make it clear that police brutality and racially-motivated violence are not new dangers for Black people living in America. But, neither are workplace discrimination, lack of diversity, bias, or compensation inequity.
Especially at many law firms, where the number of Black lawyers still account for less than 5% of all associates, decreasing each year after that. In fact, even as the legal industry has finally started to invest in diversity, equity, and inclusion programming and professionals, these efforts alone have yet to have a real impact on Black lawyer advancement and retention.
The truth of the matter is that our workplaces are as much a part of our society as Central Park, where Amy Cooper, a white woman, and company executive, was recently caught on camera weaponizing the police against Christian Cooper, a Black man who simply asked her to follow the rules in a public space. So, as protesters fight against racial injustice outside of the office, how can we all begin to genuinely help do the work of dismantling racism in the workplace?
To start, we’ve gathered just a few of the limitless resources and lists available, that help us understand our place in racist institutions, start having the tough conversations, and be better antiracist allies in every space in our lives.
Confronting antiracism in the legal industry and in legal academia
- Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion 101 (with Richemont’s Doug Melville) (January 6, 2021) In this insightful podcast, Doug Melville, VP, Head of Diversity & Inclusion at Richemont North America, explores, questions and cross examines the difference between unconscious bias and microaggression with host Porter Braswell. He dives deep into what diversity truly is and how it is defined. This podcast will make listeners reimagine their views about diversity, equity, and inclusion, especially in the workplace.
- Why Diverse Boards Can Help Close the Wealth Gap (January 7, 2021) In this piece and podcast for Knowledge@Wharton, John W. Rogers Jr., founder of Ariel Investments, sits down with Wharton’s Stephanie Crear to discuss the importance of diversity and the need for more BIPOC people in key leadership roles and boardrooms. He also voices his concerns about the lack of diversity in correlation to the increase in the wealth gap between white and people of color in America.
- As Midsize Firms Recruit More Diverse Associates, Retention Remains an Issue (January 7, 2021) In this recent article for Law.Com Meredith Hobbs, examines the significant work midsize firms, such as Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt and Drew Eckl & Farnham, are doing to enforce and increase advances in diversity for their young legal talent. Hobbs discusses that while this work is resulting in enormous change, challenges are at the forefront as retention levels become a greater issue than expected.
- Language Matters (November 4, 2020) In her powerful piece, management consultant CC Clark examines the power of using clear and direct language when referring to a racially underrepresented person or group of people. By intentionally shifting the language we use, we can more inclusively value individuals for their own perspectives and merits, especially in spaces where perspectives and culture are historically centered around a White majority.
“Using the shorthand terminology at work can lead to a sense that underrepresented people of color are empty suits, present only to bring diversity and not expertise.” - CC Clark, Language Matters
- Racism, Implicit Biases Negatively Impact Credibility of Domestic Violence Survivors (November 6, 2020) In this piece for Bloomberg Law, Tuozhi Lorna Zhen, supervising attorney in the Domestic Violence Law Unit for the New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG), shares how racism and bias undermine the protection of and equitable outcomes for BIPOC domestic violence survivors.
“I often see that when clients of color report abuse to law enforcement—or engage with the legal system—they are more likely to risk being charged themselves (or mutually arrested with their abuser). They often feel unsafe or may be unwilling to report to police or our courts because communities of color have historically been overpoliced and overcriminalized. [...] They are also less likely to be believed when they do come forward.”
- Tuozhi Lorna Zhen, New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG)
- (November 2020) In her recent LinkedIn post, Lily Zheng discusses the important distinctions between diversity, equity & inclusion efforts in the workplace and justice, diversity, equity & inclusion work.
“Improving representative diversity through hiring? Harm reduction. Lowering turnover of women and marginalized communities? Harm reduction. Stamping out microaggressions? Still harm reduction. It's crucial to make your workplace safe for marginalized communities, but don't kid yourself that doing that will somehow end societal injustice.”
- Lily Zheng
- HBR IdeaCast Podcast: How Those With Power and Privilege Can Help Others Advance (October 27, 2020) In this episode of the HBR Ideacast podcast series, Alison Beard hosts a conversation sociologists Tsedale Melaku of CUNY and David Smith of U.S. Naval War College about the potential impact of real allyship in the workplace.
“In my book, You Don’t Look Like A Lawyer, the majority of the women I interviewed had a very difficult time being able to create, manifest these relationships of both allyship and sponsorship. [...] The thing about Black women lawyers that I interviewed, is that they were recognizing that there was a stark difference in the way that they were experiencing access to these very, very important resources. And it often had to do with narratives of Affirmative Action.”
- Tsedale Melaku, author and a postdoctoral research fellow at the Institute for Research on the African Diaspora in the Americas and the Caribbean (IRADAC) at The Graduate Center, City University of New York
- Are Firm’s Diversity & Inclusion Efforts in Need of Data Assist? (October 15, 2020) In recent coverage published in Legaltech News, Victoria Hudgins recaps comments from Legal Innovators CEO and co-founder, Bryan Parker, during the virtual Clio Cloud Conference session, “Equity in Practice: Driving Structural Legal Innovation with Data and Diversity.” Parker discusses how leveraging other data points and testing measurements can enable firms to finally widen expand the pipeline to include candidates from more underrepresented demographics within Big Law, as well as how rethinking traditional compensation models can make it easier to mentor talent.
“Think beyond the four corners of the page and let’s think as a profession. If we have a pipeline problem and a diversity problem at almost all levels, what are the barriers?”
- Bryan Parker, CEO - Innovators Legal
- Microaggressions in the Workplace: A Roundtable Discussion on Racism in the Legal Profession (September 29, 2020): In this first installment of Law.com’s series of roundtables on racism in legal, Gordon Weeks, Executive Chief Assistant Public Defender and Democratic Public Defender-Elect in Broward County, Florida, moderates a discussion about the trauma caused by microaggressions toward Black attorneys in the workplace. Panelists include Loreal Arscott, Catherine Smith, Trelvis Randolph, and Moy Ogilvie.
"I think the more us that speak up and speak out in different ways—from the students to all of us trying to do what we can—little by little, it is going to be hard for others not to listen, and it is going to be their choice as to what they want to do with what they are hearing."
- Moy Ogilvie, Office Managing Partner - Hartford, McCarter & English
- Law firms urged to talk less and do more on ethnic diversity (October 2, 2020): The Financial Times takes a look at what firms are doing to improve racial disparities in law, from a largely UK perspective. Firms mentioned include Hogan Lovells, Bryan Cave, Linklaters, Baker McKenzie, and Dentons.
- Incorporating Anti-Racism Frameworks into Core Law School Classes: In this webinar, hosted by the Society of American Law Teachers (SALT), Tiffany Atkins, Dorothy Brown, Jane Cross, and Hugh Mundy discuss they incorporate anti-racist perspectives and topics within core areas of law using resilient pedagogy, and more. You can view this webinar, originally hosted on July 30, 2020, or read/download the transcript here.
- Erika Stallings has been writing about her experiences as a Black woman in law for years. Most recently, she shared her piece, ‘Racism at My Job Literally Gave Me PTSD’ in New York Magazine’s The Cut, exploring how her many years as a Black women in law have caused her to experience built up feelings of fear, unease and mistrust at work, and how she is not alone in this regard. Speaking with psychologists, she explores the concept of workplace post-traumatic stress disorder, the development of the TSDS (Trauma Symptoms of Discrimination Scale), and the traumatic experiences that BIPOC professionals see in their day-to-day work lives. Her work is also cited in our recent Thine Guide, Modern Perspectives on Mentoring Relationships for Legal Professionals.
“Why can’t I ever feel secure?” I asked. I sat in her office and talked, again and again, about how determined I felt to succeed at work — and yet eight years after becoming an attorney, I was still distrustful of my white bosses and colleagues, waiting for the day when things would go wrong.
Her response shocked me. In a gentle tone she explained that I was likely experiencing what she called “workplace post-traumatic-stress disorder.” She said that the negative experience at previous jobs had scarred me so much that I walked around defensive and worried, trying to steel myself for the moment that I would inevitably be mistreated again.
- Erika Stallings, 'Racism at My Job Literally Gave Me PTSD' | The Cut
- The Jabot Podcast, an offshoot of the Above the Law legal blog, invites guests to explore topics around the challenges that women, BIPOC, LGBTQIA and other underrepresented groups face in the legal profession. A few of their most recent and relevant episodes: Erasure of Native Voices in Law School Experience Study and How the Recent Black Lives Matter Protests are Changing BigLaw—Hopefully for the Better with Lia Dorsey. Note: For more of our podcast picks, check out our list here.
- The Law Clerks for Diversity program, launched in June of this year, connects diverse candidates with current and former law clerks, practitioners and judges for mentorship and assistance to apply to federal clerkships. Anyone interested in serving as a mentor can fill out a form here.
- Why They Left: Black Lawyers on Why Big Law Can't Keep Them Around In this piece from The American Lawyer, several lawyers share their BigLaw experiences, and give insight into the challenges that come with being a Black lawyer in law.
- In this episode of the Legal Speak podcast,‘Pictures in My Head’: Black Law Deans Take on Racism in Legal Ed, Angela Onwuachi-Willig, Boston University School of Law Dean, and Danielle Conway, Penn State Dickinson Law Dean, discuss the racism that they have both endured and witnessed in legal education, as well as how to move toward meaningful change in the future.
- Onwuachi-Willig and Conway, along with deans Kim Mutcherson of Rutgers Law School, Carla Pratt of Washburn University School of Law, and Danielle Holley-Walker of Howard University School of Law are heading the Law Deans Antiracist Clearinghouse Project creates "a space for our collective voices as leaders of law schools to engage our institutions in the fight for justice and equality, we strive to focus our teaching, scholarship, service, activism, programming, and initiatives on strategies to eradicate racism."
- In their report published by the ABA Commission on Women in the Legal Profession, Left Out and Left Behind: The Hurdles, Hassles, and Heartaches of Achieving Long-Term Legal Careers for Women of Color, Destiny Peery, Paulette Brown, and Eileen Letts catalogue the experiences of women of color over the course of their legal careers.
- The Empty Promise of the Supreme Court’s Landmark Affirmative Action Case: Recent Michigan Law grad, Hannah Taylor, candidly discusses the disheartening experience of being a Black student in higher education, #MLawLoud, and the failures of legal academia in the years before and after Grutter v. Bollinger.
- In the American Lawyer article Don’t Talk About It, Be About It: How to Move the Needle on Social Justice , CJ Donald of Haynes & Boone shares specific, actionable steps legal industry stakeholders can take to "improve the trajectory for diverse lawyers and staff."
- In this piece, Bendita Cynthia Malakia, Global Diversity & Inclusion Lead at Hogan Lovells, shares advice with Black colleagues and professionals working to navigate conversations about race with white colleagues. To be clear, this is a resource designed for Black people working to navigate conversations and life at work right now. However, it can also serve for as insight for White and non-Black POC people to better honor and respect the space, time, and energy of their Black colleagues.
- Kirkland & Ellis associate, Lauren E. Skerrett, kicks off her new Above the Law column with the essay, On Being A Black American Biglaw Associate. Her work in ATL will focus on the experiences of Black associates in Biglaw.
- Lawyers Must Address Racial Injustice With Radical Candor: Tiffani Lee, Diversity Partner at Holland & Knight LLP, shares her thoughts on how we can apply the theory of radical candor as framework for lawyers and law firms to take action.
There are countless Black authors that have dedicated careers and considerable energy around these topics. While many of these books are sold out at the moment we're sharing this list, most are available on audio and e-book for purchase or check-out.
- One great place to start: An Antiracist Reading List: Ibram X. Kendi, author of several books, including the NYT Bestseller, How to Be an Antiracist, shares a book list to help Americans transcend the denial that racism exists, and truly challenge self-serving and racist beliefs and perspectives.
- In the ten years since it was published, Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness has become essential reading for anyone confronting the concept of criminal justice reform, or even race, in America. This year, she spoke with The New Yorker about the origins of her work, where we are now, and the work that is still waiting to be done—an entire decade later.
- In the same discussion, Alexander references many works that have emerged on the topic that she finds especially relevant in today's discourse on the topic, including Are Prisons Obsolete? by Black feminist author, scholar and activist, Angela Y. Davis.
- The latest edition of Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment by Patricia Hill Collins provides a framework encapsulating the work and ideas of prominent Black feminist thinkers and examines the intersections of racial, gender and sexuality in respects to systems of power and oppression.
Perspectives, advice, essays and other resources:
- How Businesses Can Recruit and Develop More Young People of Color (October 5, 2020): In this piece for Harvard Business Review, Joiselle Cunningham and Angela Jackson share how race remains a key factor in both job attainment and career advancement, and what businesses can do to remedy this inequality.
- How Microaggressions Affect Health at Work (September 16, 2020): In this article published as a part of InHerSight’s Mircoaggressions series, Ijeoma Nwatu breaks down the impact of racial microaggression in the workplace, and shares the experiences of several Black women in legal, PR, and other corporate roles.
- 10 Steps to Non-Optical Allyship: Mireille C. Harper, writer, sensitivity reader, publicist, and assistant editor for Squarepeg Books, shares practical tips for allies looking to support the fight to dismantle racism in a way that centers Black people, in a less optical, or performative way.
- In her post, Michelle Silverthorn, diversity expert, CEO of Inclusion Nation, and author of the forthcoming book, Authentic Diversity: How Great Leaders Can Change the Workplace for Good, shares four actionable ways that companies can translate allyship statements into real, meaningful change.
- Shenequa Golding’s piece, Maintaining Professionalism In The Age of Black Death Is…. A Lot candidly shares what it feels like to endure the trauma of everyday life in America as a Black woman, and then be expected to show up professionally at work, often where there is no acknowledgment of her pain, and no space made for her to process or grieve.
- Kwesi Graves and Greg Butler have designed a framework for workplace allyship, that gives guidance for employers and colleagues looking to check-in during challenging times, as well as help create a more inclusive workplace culture.
- Jenna Wortham, New York Times Magazine staff writer and host of the podcast, Still Processing, examines events and conditions of this unique time in our American history that bring the Black Lives Matter movement where it is today.
Perspectives on confronting anti-Blackness as non-Black POCs
- Densho's blog article, Asian American Anti-Blackness Is Real—And So Is Our Responsibility to End It, the organization confronts the detrimental impact of the "model minority myth" and how Asian Americans can fight against anti-Blackness in their own communities and in greater American society.
- Tuqa Nusairat, Deputy Director at the Atlantic Council, examines White supremacy in Arab communities and how members of the Arab world in America and across the world are confronting anti-Blackness.
- The South Asian Sexual & Mental Health Alliance (SASMHA) share tips for confronting anti-Blackness in the South Asian community, starting with confronting anti-black actions and attitudes at home, to acknowledging how the work of Black civil rights activists paved the way for the emigration freedoms, socio-economic opportunity and privilege that South Asians may experience today.
- In this article, Nicole Acevedo undefined the links between historical European colonialism and present the anti-Blackness ingrained in Latinx communities, the experiences of Afro-Latinos, and how ethnicity and race intersect uniquely in many Latinx spaces.
This is a "living" article, and will be regularly updated. If you have any suggestions for additional content to add to this topic, please share it with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published on June 3, 2020. | Last updated: January 15, 2021.