I think we’ve all seen law schools or law firms conduct a “diversity campaign” through extremely selective photography. There might be only four people of color at your law school, but you can best believe that all four of them will show up in the brochure for prospective students. Your 100-person law firm might have only two brothers who can show up to work without wearing a uniform, but both of those dudes will magically end up in a central position on the law firm website.
Everybody knows the game. Black people, brown people, women, and people in the majority all know what the PR department is trying to do. Back when I was in law school, there was this sister in a wheelchair who had Harvard photographers following her around like paparazzi.
I never thought of these attempts to represent through photography what cannot be achieved in reality to be particularly problematic. I never thought that over-representing minorities in law school brochures was painful or offensive to the overwhelming majority that would therefore be underrepresented in the pictures. I guess I thought that one of the benefits of being in the majority is that you don’t need a stupid PR photo shoot to make you feel like you might be able to get through school without being discriminated against.
But maybe I was wrong about all that. Maybe there really is one law student in Indiana who is ready to blow the lid off of a serious case of reverse racism that has just been staring us right in the face…
Today, students at Indiana University School of Law — Indianapolis received a very curious email. It purported to be from a fellow student who claimed that large pictures of African-American male law students, on banners in the school’s common area, were unrepresentative of the school and created an unwelcoming environment for white people and non-black minorities. Here’s the crux of the letter from a student who calls himself (or herself) “Invisible Man”:
Dear Students and Colleagues,
There is a situation of concern to me which affects us all. There are three giant banners depicting African-American males in the law school atrium. This is not welcoming to other minorities or whites. The images do not offer an accurate depiction of the school.
These banners are not a fair representation of the school. We should support diversity, not just African-American males.
The saying at the top of each sign says “Here we protect equality; Here we advocate for justice; Here we educate leaders; Here we create lifelong connections.” Another photo could be added which says “Here we ignore all cultures except for a few.”
I wonder what the recently filmed video shot in the atrium will say about our school?
The portraits and paintings in the law school sing the same song. It is a shame that the only place many groups see representation at the law school is with their reflection in the bathroom mirrors.
What if the three brothers were sporting big, toothy grins, and holding janitorial equipment? Would that be more welcoming, you freaking [redacted for space], who clearly has an unhelpful, visceral reaction to black [kumbaya, my Lord] people? And while we’re here, portraits don’t sing.
In any event, although we can’t see the “offensive” atrium, we can take a look at the IndyLaw webpage. Many of the pictures there feature African-Americans (with one shot of an Asian lady and a white woman, and another of a blonde woman shaking a black man’s hand — yeah, right, like that would ever happen in the Indiana that Invisible Man thinks he’s living in).
If you just looked at the pictures, the school is certainly over-representing their minorities. According to the school’s website, only 17% of the full-time class of 2010 are minorities, (and of those, who knows how many of them are African-American).
I bring up these stats to say that if this person thinks that all law school PR materials should be in strict accordance with the actual racial and gender make-up of the campus, that would at least be a cognizable point. It’d be an amazingly stupid and trivial point, but a point nonetheless.
But instead, this Invisible Man isn’t really worried about whether or not Indy Law is “welcoming” to students of all races, no, this student is more concerned with perceived favoritism for the few African-American students on campus. He supports this opinion with no evidence at all — but hey, who needs evidence when you can just look at the color of a person’s skin and make baseless inferences?
Is it perception, or reality that since the Office of Professional Development (OPD) has been run for the last few years by African American females that people of similar ethnicity are afforded greater assistance and the best opportunities to succeed? It is a pervasive opinion that the OPD offers more assistance to members of certain groups. Is this how our institution is to be regarded?
In Bloomington the OPD is highly regarded as a very helpful partner to all students, it would be nice if IU Indianapolis could somehow gain a similar reputation.
These concerns are shared by many, although few including this author are bold enough to raise a voice for fear of repercussion that may prevent someone from walking across the stage. Instead this anonymous email is submitted not to elicit a verbal response nor for lip service but rather by actions of the IU Law School in Indianapolis. As my peers and I proceed in our legal careers it would be great for IU Indianapolis to become better known and better recognized as a diverse and fair law school.
This appeal goes to all administrators, teachers, and students, please consider these words.
The Invisible Man
A few points, in no particular order:
- Hey buddy, you don’t get to call yourself “bold” when hiding behind a pseudonym. Instead you get to call yourself “someone who does not have the courage of his convictions.”
- The thought that older black women would naturally make things easier on younger black men is something that only a non-black person would dream up. I wish I could invite Invisible Man to my house for Easter dinner so he could learn about black people who will not be in the Playoffs this weekend.
- What do you think the chances are that this person read Invisible Man (affiliate link) in the first place? Regardless of whether the writer of this email is white or some other non-black minority, I sincerely hope that he doesn’t feel his identity is being taken away because of some pictures in a law school atrium. That would be beyond sad and pathetic.
- Also sad and pathetic: blaming career services because the kids at IU-Bloomington have an easier time getting jobs than the kids at IU-Indy.
- Kid, if the black ladies who work in OPD seem like they hate you, I think we kind of know why now. It’s not because of your skin color, whatever that may be. Just sayin’.
Since the initial email went out, we’ve received a number of emails from other IU-Indy students making fun of Invisible Man. Based on our anecdotal evidence, the “concerns… shared by many” might refer to the many voices floating around this kid’s head, as opposed to even a handful of law students who even noticed the banners in the first place. One tipster summed up the student reaction to the email as follows:
These posters aren’t too big and are not a big deal at all. As a white male, I do not feel discriminated against by them in the least. The thought of racism of anything else has not crossed my mind in the least the 100′s of times I’ve walked by them this year.
People at our school will seriously bitch about anything.
Some advice to Invisible Man: If you are white, stop jerking off to yourself in the bathroom mirror and instead look around — you’ll find a bunch of other familiar faces. If you are non-white, all I can tell you is being a token is not nearly as cool as it seems.
And if you are just an unemployed guy looking for somebody to blame for your difficult job situation… remember that time when you wrote an email to the entire school about banners in the atrium instead of studying for finals? Yeah, that was probably a bad call.