So it’s happened again. Another state, another neighborhood, another young black person shot to death by someone based on a loose, subjective “fear.” This time it’s Michigan, and it’s a young woman instead of a teenage boy, but otherwise it’s the same basic pattern of an African-American in a predominately white neighborhood at night running afoul of a gun-toting homeowner.
There will be a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth over the prevalence of “Stand Your Ground” laws (which Michigan boasts), followed by the equal and opposite reaction loudly pointing out that Stand Your Ground doesn’t apply to this particular case (which it doesn’t).
However, while what happened in Michigan may not invoke the state’s Stand Your Ground law, the existence and high-profile nature of laws that lower the standard for legally forgivable gunplay has everything to do with what happened in Michigan…
Judge Shira Scheindlin is no Jonathan Martin. When the Second Circuit bullied her off the stop-and-frisk case, she didn’t run crying to her parents. Instead, she’s standing up to the Second Circuit, appealing its ruling that she was improperly biased. She notes that the Second Circuit kicked her off the case sua sponte, without giving her any opportunity to defend or explain herself.
It’s funny… Scheindlin is basically arguing that she got stop-and-frisked by the appellate court. She was walking along, judging her own business, but the Second Circuit jumped to conclusions based on her appearance.
Unfortunately, in my experience, telling the people who stop-and-frisked you that they jumped to a conclusion without probable cause usually doesn’t go well…
The most racist thing that happened to me in Biglaw occurred during one of my callbacks. I was being led from one partner’s office to another partner’s office by the recruiting lady at a Biglaw firm (which I won’t name). The partner who was supposed to interview me next was delayed, and so the recruiting lady and I were loitering outside his office for a second. While I’m standing there, another old white partner comes out of his office waving an inter-office mail envelope in my face. He barks, “Where have you been all day? Get this up to [some floor].” I’m in a suit, by the way. The recruiting lady is mortified, and she stammers something like, “This is Elie… he’s interviewing with us today… from HARVARD.” Without a word of apology, the partner grunts “okay,” and then shuffles back into his office, leaving the door open so I guess he could yell at the real mail guy, whenever he appeared.
Needless to say, I didn’t accept my offer with that firm.
These kinds of things happen to lawyers of color all the time. For the first year at the firm I did go to, I eschewed the “business casual” dress code and wore a full suit everyday. I just didn’t want to be mistaken for the mail guy, and was still young and stupid enough to believe that there was some kind of personal choice I could adopt that would make prejudiced white people treat me fairly.
But there’s not really anything you can do to disabuse people of their racist stereotypes. All you can do is keep on doing your thing, as this one California law student is learning…
Not that Roberts cares about pesky things like facts, but the facts on the ground in Michigan since the state’s ballot initiative show that without affirmative action, minority enrollment has plummeted. At the University of Michigan, minority enrollment at the college and the law school is down 30 percent.
Now, I know a lot of conservatives will respond to that number with “so?” I get that there are entire swaths of America that could give a crap if minorities are going to public universities or not. I’m sure the hatred for “undeserving” minorities will be well expressed in the comments.
Those people aren’t running the University of Michigan, however. The people running Michigan would like to admit a diverse group of students, and the state’s ballot initiative has clearly hampered that effort. For that law school, it’s a very complicated problem, because as we’ve been reporting, law school applications are down across the board, and that includes minority applicants….
I do not mean to say that life as a young woman of color at a large corporate law firm felt like just one Big Marathon of Blatant Racist and Sexist Slights. The experience is, of course, far more nuanced and subtle than that, and often more insidious and harder to battle for its very sublety.
This weekend, a black man got into a car accident, climbed out of the wreckage through the back window of his vehicle, went looking for help, and was shot to death by the police. I should also mention that the black guy was unarmed.
In a surprise twist, the police officer has been charged with voluntary manslaughter. I’m sure that the people who think it’s okay when black people get shot to death will find a way to defend the officer, and they’ll deny that race played a role in the shooting. But I’d like to think that even the people who don’t think this guy was killed because he was black can at least agree that the police can’t be allowed to gun people down in this fashion.
The police are supposed to protect and serve, not shoot to kill…
There’s a great episode of 30 Rock where Twofer (the black character who went to Harvard) gets offended when Tracy Morgan (the black character who did not go to Harvard) says “the n-word” to him, colloquially, as black people allegedly say to each other based on movies and music. Twofer threatens to sue Tracy Morgan for workplace harassment, while Tracy argues that it’s okay for black people to use the word. Then there’s a great, great scene where Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, and Tracy Morgan try to get Twofer to say the word too.
It doesn’t go well. He says it, Morgan threatens to punch him, and Fey says, “It just sounds so hateful coming from you.” The scene pretty much explains why I personally don’t use the word. I don’t say it around white people, I don’t say it to other black people, I don’t use it when I’m getting a haircut, and I don’t use it around the dinner table with my family at Thanksgiving. It’s not a word that I can “pull off” (I can pull it off in writing when I use it ironically, I think), and I’m totally okay with that.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those people who sees intense hypocrisy in the fact that some black people can and do pull it off while no white person (outside of Louie C.K. and maybe Bill Maher) is allowed to try. White people got a 400-year head start in the New World, and black people can deploy an extra noun when listening to Jay-Z. There are greater tragedies.
But the N-word is not a “professional” word, and I don’t think it should be used in that context. It doesn’t matter if you are black or white or from whatever racist planet Rush Limbaugh is from. At the point where you are using the n-word to talk to your employees, you need to help yourself to a thesaurus.
Apparently, there’s a jury of my peers who agrees with me…
* Is Justice Ginsburg, our favorite judicial diva, foiling her own jurisprudential legacy by refusing to retire from the Supreme Court before another president takes office? [Daily Beast]
* Year-over-year, there’s been a double-digit drop in demand for legal services, so now is a great time to start speculating about which firm will be the next to conduct layoffs. [Am Law Daily]
* Don’t despair, the results of the Am Law Midlevel Survey are out, and associates are more satisfied than ever — except for the women. They’re “leaning out,” so to speak. [Am Law Daily]
* New York City (d/b/a Mayor Michael Bloomberg) wants Judge Shira Scheindlin to stay her stop-and-frisk rulings pending appeal, because racial profiling is an effective crime fighting tool. [New York Law Journal]
* If you want to know why law school is three years long instead of two, it’s because back in the day, the T14s of the world were convinced it’d “stop the proles from sullying the image of the bar.” [The Economist]
* In an effort to keep law school deans’ listserv drama and email scandals to a minimum, the American Bar Association just doled out some rules to keep their ivory tower talk in check. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]
* “[I]f I die because of this, my life will have been worthwhile.” The HSBC whistleblower would face death to talk about the big bank’s money laundering — and to see the lovely Marni Halasa. [Huffington Post]
Late last week, Michael Brown and 24 of his friends and family met at a Charleston, South Carolina restaurant for a farewell party for his cousin. After waiting about two hours for a table, a shift manager at the Wild Wing Cafe told the party to leave. Did I mention these folks were black? Oh, well, they were black. And why weren’t they getting seated?
According to the shift manager, it was because a white patron felt “threatened” by the group, and the manager felt obliged to respect this woman’s delusion by keeping the black diners waiting in the lobby before ultimately kicking them out.
Cue the Chief Justice: “Things have changed in the South.”
Seriously though, so far this ordeal has elicited calls for a boycott, but legal action has been mostly overlooked, which is odd since the story brings back memories of one of the biggest discrimination suits of the last 20 years…
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