Everyone will have different experiences while working over the summer. Some may find the work load difficult or easy. Some may find the law frustrating or rewarding. At some point, all law school students will experience these feelings, however not everyone will experience the same work environment. Some students will experience microaggressions.
Microaggressions are brief and commonplace — daily verbal, behavioral, and environmental indignities and invalidations, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative slights and insults to the target person or group or “outsiders”. “Outsiders” are individuals who do not come from the dominant culture. They are women, people of color, and the LGBQT community. Usually, the “well-intentioned” people are the microaggressors–they are the ones who actively say and/or believe they are not racist, sexist, or homophobic; however, their actions or expressions say otherwise.
These are only a few words Professor Janet Moore used to describe the Honorable Shira Scheindlin, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (ret.), this year’s Judge-in Residence at the University of Cincinnati College of Law.
I had the pleasure to attend her lecture on Race and Policing, and have lunch with her the following day. As a law student, I’ve always told myself that I will be the change I want to see to paraphrase Mathama Gandhi. But, like many other law school students, I get bogged down by the environment at the law school. I stress out most of the time. I don’t get enough sleep. I find myself comparing me to other people making me insecure. I constantly fight the urges to lash out because of insecurities. In just two years, I forgot why I wanted to be a lawyer. However, Judge Shira Scheindlin reminded me why I made that choice.
Over the past weeks, plenty of people have spoken and written in condemnation of the racist, homophobic chants from Elder’s cheering section at a recent basketball game against rival St. Xavier. They have a right to do so. I have no intention of piling on any more judgment, finger-pointing, or shaming. I am offering what I believe is a unique perspective, and an important request.
I am a graduate of Elder High School and a student at the University of Cincinnati College of Law. One of the St. Xavier students who was the target of the vicious chants was the son of Mina Jefferson, Associate Dean and Director of the Center for Professional Development at the law school, and all-around amazing person. In a bizarre way, I felt like one side of my family was hurling slurs at the other side. I read the account of the events with a sense of sadness and shame, but absolutely no surprise.
The most touching viral videos I’ve seen recently are the ones of children who are colorblind who see color for the first time. These children often only see the world in muted colors or no color at all. But they are given a gift of special lenses that allow them to see all the vibrant shades of their surroundings. These videos are beautiful in and of themselves, but recently they’ve taken on a new meaning for me.
Growing up, I was colorblind in how I saw the world. Though I knew other races, religions, and cultures existed, I had limited exposure to them. My family never really spoke about race because there was never a reason to do so. I grew up in a primarily white neighborhood, went to primarily white schools, watched television shows and movies that mostly starred white characters. Throughout my childhood I only knew a small handful of students who were of a different race and religion than me limiting my view of the world.
At a time when many are asking why race remains such a potent force in our society, it’s important to explore the impact of persistent residential segregation. Mark Treskon of the Urban Institute reports that inclusive communities are more economically prosperous. Published in 2017, this article focuses on segregation in Chicago from 1990-2010 and trends seen in Chicago appear in other major cities as well. City actors could break down barriers to local inclusion, the entire region could benefit from the higher incomes and education levels. The Urban Institute investigates how policy can break down these barriers. Click here to learn more.
Cultural ignorance slows the progress of social justice.
Guest Contributor: Nikita Srivastava, (’19)
As a minority woman in the United States, I am often defined by the color of skin. Although I take pride in my heritage, it is not the only thing that defines who I am. I find myself explaining who I am (or what defines me) more often than my white peers. Not only is this common in social settings, but professional settings as well. What makes matters worse is that my concerns about cultural ignorance are dismissed as “little things.” Continue reading “I speak Hindi, I am Hindu, and I’m an American: Fighting “Little Things””