“You can’t play your race card when discussing this issue. Bringing race into this matter will not get us anywhere. I am telling you now, it won’t be a constructive conversation.” John Doe said this to a woman of color while we were discussing the socio-economic effects of government programs in one of my undergraduate classes. He angrily slammed his hands on the table and began chugging his water. I imagined that he grabbed his water to cool himself down as if there was a fire inside of him that he needed to put out. Another classmate stated that our country was founded on racism and I stated, “these policies are supposedly ‘race-neutral,’ but are not. By not considering race, we are disregarding more than half the people in this country.” (I thought to myself: race is a part of everything in this country, ignoring it only makes it worse.) As silence ensued, my professor quickly turned to another portion of our assigned reading. However, I could not focus on anything else. I called my mother after the class and recalled the event to her. She said, “With each generation, things get better, but then you hear someone say something like that. It makes you think: are we better now?”
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.
On March 24, 2018, more than five hundred men and women marched through Memphis Tennessee. Most of them had spent a large part of their lives in prison– a combined 3,501 years among them– for crimes they did not commit.
The march was the closing event for the 2018 Innocence Network conference, a gathering of exonorees and lawyers working on behalf of those wrongfully convicted. Exonorees came from every state in the country and from countries across the globe. They marched with attorneys and advocates and family. They held signs demanding change in the system that had wronged them. Demanding accountability. Demanding, at least, public recognition that innocent men and women were being arrested and convicted by agents acting on the public’s behalf.
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.
In the 1980s, a young female lawyer and her lawyer husband attended a party hosted by a club only allowing male lawyers. The room was filled with young men celebrating their legal careers. One of the guests at this party handed the woman a name tag. Instead of writing her name, she wrote “discrimantee” and proudly placed it on her chest. “Well, it is true,” she said after getting several questions about it. (I should write “discrimantee” on all my name tags because nothing much has really changed)
Sharon Rowen’s Balancing the Scales, addresses discrimination using women’s narratives to guide the audience. Due to Ohio’s CLE requirements, Ms. Rowen had to pause the film and explain why she directed it this way. Rowen said the film is divided into 3 parts: 1) the oral history of female role models, 2) what keeps women from achieving higher positions, 3) women not making choices from a level playing field.
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.
OJ Simpson’s parole hearing provides another opportunity to consider race in the criminal justice system.
Nikita Srivastava (’19)
Former football player and Hollywood star, OJ Simpson will have a parole hearing on Thursday, July 20th, 2017. In December 2008, Simpson was convicted of robbery with a deadly weapon. He was sentenced to 33 years in prison with the possibility of parole in 6 years. This, of course, was not Simpson’s first encounter with the law. In 1994, a jury acquitted Simpson of the murders of Nicole Brown-Simpson and Ronald Goldman. His high profile case sparked a division on race relations in this nation.
Simpson’s parole hearing will occur when race remains a highly contested and hotly debated topic in this nation. As a result, it’s fitting to examine Joe’s Feagin concept of the white racial frame (WRF) helps us understand why Simpson and his legal issues embody issues of race. And, to watch the Oscar-winning documentary, OJ: Made in America, which brings these complicated issues to life. Continue reading “OJ Simpson Revisited”