A SPECIAL PUBLICATION
#CbusBarSpeaks We We are are listening. listening.
Table of Contents OPEN LETTERS
Rob Erney, President, CBA Columbus bar Association
William A. Nolan, Chair, MPDI Columbus Bar Association Managing Partners' Diversity Initiative
Janay M. Stevens, President, JMLBA John Mercer Langston Bar Association
Shweta Chauby, President, APABA-CO Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Central Ohio
Saleh Awadallah, President, AABAOHIO Arab American Bar Association Of Ohio
Elia Diaz-Yaeger, President, HNBA Hispanic National Bar Association
Columbus Bar Association 175 S. Third St., Suite 1100 Columbus, OH 43215 (614) 221-4112 www.cbalaw.org
ARTICLES FROM US
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The Black Professional Daniel Best Dear White Bosses in Columbus Anonymous Looking Ahead: Mapping Out an Effective Diversity & Inclusion Curriculum Judith M. McInturff Author
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NOTICE: Statements or opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Columbus Bar Association, its officers, board, or staff. Any statements pertaining to the law contained in this magazine are intended solely to provide broad, general information, not legal advice. Readers should seek advice from a licensed attorney with regard to any specific legal issues.
Table of Contents ARTICLES FROM US
A How-To Guide: Having Difficult Conversations about Race Kwame Christian Preparing for Difficult Coversations about Race
American Negotiation Institute
Kari E. Murphy Director of Diversity Columbus Bar Association
Selected anonymous submissions from Columbus attorneys. Edited by Kari E. Murphy & Brianna Antinoro
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In the wake of the George Floyd killing, a need to take action swept our nation like never before. We could no longer stand by as injustice, prejudice, and discrimination chipped away at our country's foundation. The CbusBarSpeaks special publication was born out of that need for action. While this brief collection does not overtly combat police brutality, structural racism, or systemic inequality, it does attempt to do what each of us can: examine ourselves and then take action.
Resources for families Articles Books
This publication seeks to capture this moment and to serve as a listening tool and an ongoing resource. We wanted to provide a forum for our colleagues to express their pain, their solidarity, their advice, and their personal experience. We are proud to have achieved that end.
Documentaries, Films & TV shows Organizations Other Media
We hope you'll read with your mind and heart open, and that when you stop reading, you too will do what you can to take action.
Special thanks to assistant editor, Brianna Antinoro. Your initiative and willingness moves mountains.
Created by: Andrew Lundberg
Rob Erney, President, CBA COLUMBUS BAR ASSOCIATION
- the CBA is determined to assemble a “starting point” list of ways in which we will do more than speak.
STATEMENT OF PRESIDENT ROB ERNEY, ON BEHALF OF THE CBA, REGARDING RACIAL JUSTICE
A past president of the Austin, Texas Bar Association, Rev. Joseph C. Parker Jr., has remarked that “The reason there are visible and vocal protests is that we still have hope. We are protesting because we believe that something can be done.” The CBA shares Rev. Parker’s belief that “something can be done.” While this list is still in development - and will be refined and expanded - the CBA will act in the following ways, joining with others in this essential duty:
It is another day in Columbus, Ohio - and throughout our nation - where culturally embedded racism and systemic racial bias eat at the fabric of our society. If we truly want that to change, we must act. The leadership and lawyers of the Columbus Bar Association treasure and celebrate the values of fairness, justice, and equality, but if we are to genuinely adhere to those values, we must do much more than treasure and celebrate them. We hold central to our identities the application of the “rule of law” and its essential corollary of “equal justice under the law.” But those high-minded principles ring hollow when we fail to take the steps necessary to assure equal justice, so we must act.
CONVENE, TEACH & LEARN: Effectively attacking a problem requires the fullest possible understanding of it. The CBA will host and facilitate a project aimed at broadly engaging lawyers in the steps they can take within their own practices and law firms to undermine apparent and subtle racial inequities in their workplaces. In addition, the CBA will assist its members in providing their clients’ strategies to do the same.
As part of attacking societal systemic bias, it is incumbent upon all of us to speak clearly, publicly, and unabashedly when those values are undermined, especially when they are disregarded by others. But speaking unhesitatingly about injustice is not enough, and we must act. Before issuing a statement joining the many voices expressing abhorrence at the death of George Floyd – and recognizing the raw expressions regarding unabated injustice which it has spawned
AMPLIFY: The CBA will dedicate communications resources to keeping the urgency of confronting racial injustice in the forefront of public dialogue. It will seek the participation of its members in providing written and oral presentations that can be published and distributed in print, broadcast, and online settings. In addition, the CBA will bring too-often diminished voices and perspectives to its work, to undercut the repetition of mistakes of the past. 5
Systemic change cannot come without the commitment of resources to that change. On behalf of the Columbus Bar Association Board of Governors, I can attest to our commitment to the urgent task of making our community and our society a more just and equitable one. The CBA will speak about injustice when injustice is evident, but we will do more than speak – the CBA and its members will act, with determination, to undermine the societal disease of racial injustice.
ADVOCATE: Advocacy is the essence of what CBA members do on behalf of their clients. We will develop more and better avenues for our members to deploy advocacy skills in pursuit of racial justice. And then we will advocate. We will not sit back, hoping someone else will do so – we will pick our battles wisely and resolutely commit to successful outcomes. And we will support and assist those who are engaged in racial justice advocacy within and beyond the legal system. In particular, we will zealously work with those seeking to protect the right to vote and to assure fair elections.
- Robert D. Erney President, CBA
COLLABORATE: The CBA will redouble its efforts to identify and work with its allies in the fight for “equal justice under the law.” We will redouble our commitment to the notion that we are stronger when we engage, together, to advance common goals. We will seek out those who we can join, or who will join with us, in collective efforts to discernibly move the ball in our battle against racial injustice.
INNOVATE: The CBA will relentlessly seek new approaches to confront institutionalized racism. We will establish a clear, open channel for our members and the pubic to suggest ways in which the CBA might act and will work with urgency to identify improved and new ways that we can contribute to the eradication of racial injustice within our profession and in our community.
The Columbus Bar Association, through its Managing Partners Diversity Initiative, is pleased to support the #CbusBarSpeaks publication. 8
William A. Nolan, Chair, MPDI COLUMBUS BAR ASSOCIATION MANAGING PARTNERS' DIVERSITY INITIATIVE
employees – to analyze their hiring and retention on an annual basis and allow it to be part of the aggregate analysis of how we’re doing. We have made progress on that front and others, but it has been slower than we had hoped.
It is an honor to offer a few words on behalf of the Columbus Bar Association Managing Partners’ Diversity Initiative (MPDI) as a small part of #CbusBarSpeaks, a unique initiative in a unique year. This publication is designed to amplify the voices and stories of people affected by racism in our society and, indeed, in our favorite legal community.
2020 has been an emphatic wakeup call in so many ways. While many of us have invested time and other resources in moving the needle on diversity and inclusion through MPDI and other avenues in the past, the murder of George Floyd and others named in this publication and the renewed expression of profound hurt and fear and anger those persistent events bring to so many of our friends and colleagues, reminded us like nothing in our adult lifetimes how much more we can do.
Columbus is such a great success story in so many ways – a strong and almost recession-proof economy, a great community spirit of collaboration and innovation, growing diversity in many important respects, a national buzz we did not used to have – that it’s easy to forget how much work we have to do and how many people there are who have not fully shared in the region’s success. Even in our legal community, in the aggregate a relatively privileged group based on our collective education and economic opportunities, not everybody enjoys in the same way the benefits of a professional community that reflects the good qualities of our community at large.
To an extent, we were collectively sleeping on racism. There are many important diversity and inclusion issues to work on, and they can all be valuable, but it is a qualitatively different “D&I” issue when some of our neighbors’ ancestors were forcibly brought to this country in the bottoms of ships, exploited for centuries as slave labor, and subject to all manner of criminal acts (at least criminal acts if they were committed against me). We may disagree about exactly what that means today for our laws and society, but we cannot reasonably deny that it is part of our collective DNA, and that its impact is deep and enduring.
MPDI was started in 2001, dedicated to improving the racial and ethnic diversity of the Central Ohio bar. At the time, it was an innovative step, especially for a Midwestern medium-sized city. Many of our past and present colleagues have made great contributions to MPDI, also led by passionate CBA professionals. One of the core contributions has been to require signatories – which now include all of the largest law offices in town as well as our largest public sector legal
This publication represents the CBA’s effort to allow our colleagues to speak in each of their own unique ways about these issues in this hard and meaningful year. Sharing those voices has been an idea that the 9
CBA’s Kari Murphy has been promoting among us for many months before any of us had heard of George Floyd, but the events of 2020 demanded that we bring it to fruition. I hope you will take some time away from the constant e-mails and other demands and stimuli to read and fully absorb the words and pictures in the pages that follow. As we publish this, many of us and those around us have a level of awareness and energy greater than we previously had, and an enhanced readiness to promote change. I also hope these pages inspire you to be part of something to promote and support others in our profession. If you’re not sure where to start, there’s no point being ashamed of that – reach out to somebody you see in these pages. I know any one of them would be happy to help you get started. Thanks for reading, reflecting and, when you are done, doing something to help a neighbor or colleague succeed.
- William A. Nolan Chair, MPDI
Created by: Katerina Armeria
Visible but Invisible #ArtUnitesCbus 12
Janay M. Stevens, President, JMLBA JOHN MERCER LANGSTON BAR ASSOCIATION We are honored and humbled to have the privilege to serve as members of the leadership team of the John Mercer Langston Bar Association (JMLBA) for the 2020–2021 membership year. In 1998, Black attorneys came together to form JMLBA— Central Ohio’s first unified bar association for Black lawyers.
access to health care, education, housing, childcare, small business resources and mental health services, as well as food insecurity, income inequality, disproportionate mortality rates and heightened unemployment rates are all being spotlighted. As COVID-19 continues to devastate our country and the world, these disparities will inevitably give rise to unique and profound impacts on the mental, fiscal and physical health of Black Americans.
Since that time, JMLBA’s mission and purpose has been to promote professional development, networking, mentoring and community activism. In line with that mission, JMLBA has worked to advance diversity and inclusion in the legal profession, provided CLE opportunities for members and the legal community, connected our community through networking and celebrating our achievements, increased scholarships for Black law students, and strengthened relationships with community partners. We look forward to building upon the solid foundation that our previous leadership established.
Simultaneously, our country is also experiencing what can only be described as a long-overdue awakening on racial equality. This awakening was most immediately foreshadowed by the vigilante assassination of a man running while Black, the erroneous and fatal execution of a no-knock-warrant on a woman sleeping while Black, the calling of 911 by a white woman seeking to weaponize race against a man who was bird-watching while Black, and an excruciating 8-minute, 46-second-long public lynching. The national outrage that has followed these horrific and senseless events presents the opportunity to be truly transformative. However, to cultivate lasting transformation, we must all take action now to ensure that this is not just a moment in time, but a movement that results in meaningful and sustained change.
Undoubtedly, this year has been challenging. First, an unprecedented global health pandemic struck, highlighting what we have long known to be true: significant disparities persist in Black communities across the country, including here in Central Ohio. Critical issues, including equitable
To Our Sponsors and Allies: Your role cannot be understated. We ask that you remove the barriers in your respective organizations that have long prevented the advancement of Black people in the legal profession. We ask that you reach beyond the legal profession and into the community-at-large. We
ask that you educate yourselves and others, and have explicit and uncomfortable conversations in your homes and workplaces regarding the legacy of slavery, disenfranchisement, segregation, oppression and systemic racism rooted in racial superiority. Race is not an abstract topic to be debated, parsed, overanalyzed or mocked. In no uncertain terms, systemic racism is a construct that only you, as our allies, can dismantle. So, we also expect you to make sincere programmatic — not merely performative—changes in your organizations and in your daily lives. To be clear, genuine programmatic changes include the following: hire Black law students, attorneys and staff; thoughtfully assign work to Black employees; include Black employees as valued members of your team; fairly evaluate the work product of Black employees; sponsor your Black colleagues; promote Black employees to positions of influence in your organization; equitably compensate your Black employees; offer pro bono legal services to Black business owners and the Black community; and support Black-owned businesses as an individual and corporate consumer. As Maya Angelou said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
seek out opportunities to collaborate with each other and connect resources within our community. To Our Members: Elaine Welteroth once said, “Sometimes just being yourself is the radical act. When you occupy space in systems that weren’t built for you, your authenticity is your activism.” For far too long, we, like so many of you, have spent an inordinate amount of time meticulously crafting our professional personas to accommodate the professional spaces we occupy. We are exhausted, but our exhaustion does not outweigh our hope. It is our sincere intention that over the course of this membership year, we can help create space for you to grieve, to be in fellowship, to change, to advocate and to grow. With these aims in mind, we are excited to launch a number of new programming initiatives including: Rise Together; Network | Net Worth; Sustaining Excellence; Servant Leadership; Celebrating Us; and Community Activism. You can learn more about each of these initiatives on the new JMLBA website (www.jmlba.org). There is no doubt in our minds that this is a pivotal moment in history. What we, collectively, do in this moment matters. Our organization is at its best when we collaborate: it is your ideas, suggestions, sponsorship and leadership that make JMLBA great. Please continue to reach out and share your ideas and your experiences, your aspirations, and your insights. We look forward to a year of hope, growth, and change. After all, “we are our ancestors’ wildest dreams.”
To Our Community: We understand that being criminalized for how we show up in the world is inexplicably traumatic. We also understand the inherent barriers designed to keep us marginalized. Our understanding, however, is insufficient. It is part of JMLBA’s purpose to be a resource to you; to distill what is a complex legal system, fraught with systemic biases, and ensure that it functions with equal justice as its goal; and to strive to dismantle access barriers. Our commitment to you is one of refocused and reprioritized service in the fight against racial injustice.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve. We look forward to working with you this year.
- Janay M. Stevens President, JMLBA
Further, we commit to deepening our support of Black-owned businesses in Central Ohio. We will 14
Shweta Chauby, President, APABA-CO ASIAN PACIFIC AMERICAN BAR ASSOCIATION OF CENTRAL OHIO We have all by now viewed the scenes of injustice and brutality that have flashed on our screens nonstop for the past few months, but the names of the victims bear repeating: George Floyd, murdered in cold-blood on a Minneapolis sidewalk; Ahmaud Arbery, killed remorselessly by vigilantes; Breonna Taylor, shot in her own house by plainclothes policemen executing a no-knock search warrant; and Jacob Blake, shot seven times in the back in front of his kids. These are just the latest in the long list of Black men, women and even children brutalized by law enforcement; the stories of countless unnamed individuals remain untold.
This act plays out through its institutions – the courts, NGOs, the press, law enforcement, townhalls, legislative bodies, regulatory agencies – and occasionally, in the streets. As attorneys, we are in strongest position of any profession to ensure that these institutions foster racial equity and hold their bad actors accountable. At this pivotal point in our country’s history, we must renew our commitment to bringing about a racially just society, show up in solidarity with the victims and be outspoken in our demand for justice; we shouldn’t shy away from what Mr. Lewis called “good trouble.”
These latest incidents have rightly infused a new sense of urgency in the fight to abolish racism and racial injustice from our society and civic institutions. The protests, rallies and acts of civil disobedience that have followed have been of historic proportions, and rightly so. Prior efforts have produced some progress on this front, but this time, it appears that we are at a tipping point in this fight against racism and injustice, and APABA-CO is proud to contribute its voice to this movement through #CbusBarSpeaks.
The act is full of contradictions, too. While we despair for the unjust world that our children might inherit from us, we also see the first minority female nominee for Vice President; an African-American and an Indian-American – words that also closely describe my daughter. While the racially toxic climate suffocates us, I witness history being made as a record number of women and minorities head to the halls of Congress, promoting social justice and reform. Whether we respond to this moment with resigned nihilism or with optimistic resolve will determine our society’s course for generations.
In carrying forth this fight, we stand on the shoulder of giants – the thousands of leaders and activists of past generations, who have brought us to this point. One such stalwart of the movement, the late Senator John Lewis, in his final essay passed the torch of the struggle to the next generation with the reminder that “democracy is not a state; it is an act.”
The recent heart-wrenching incidents of police brutality inflicted upon unarmed black men are only the latest and the most visible incidences of violence inflicted upon the African-American and other minority communities by unjust socio-political institutions; however, racial injustice has been inflicted upon these communities over decades of modern history in far more insidious but less visible
ways that have impacted and will impact them for generations. The racially motivated redlining of housing districts that led to underinvestment in Black communities for decades; the failed war on drugs that has disproportionately put millions of Black men in prisons and damaged the social fabric of their communities; the cuts to social services that disproportionately impact communities of color; campaigns of redistricting with surgical precision to suppress Black votes â&#x20AC;&#x201C; these detestable policies are as suffocating and unjust to Black communities as is a knee to the neck of one individual. For decades, these policies have dictated where the minorities can live, where they go to school, the quality of the air they breathe, their income and wealth, their access to food and healthcare.
from boycott of their businesses; individuals who have faced verbal and physical racist attacks; those who have been humiliated and treated with suspicion by their fellow citizens. We stand against hate crimes and racism against the APA community in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. This has shown us that no community is immune from the insidious effects of racial injustice and prejudice. Racial injustice, so long a shred of it exists anywhere, will spread its tentacles and fill every space it can find. In other words, the slow boil of decades of injustice, the rising temperature from years of police brutality against Blacks, the raging Coronavirus crisis disproportionately battering Black, Asian and other minority communities, and a toxic environment demonizing all peaceful protestors â&#x20AC;&#x201C; have brought us to a combustible point of no return. We can seize on this opportunity to light the path forward or let this burn our social fabric to shreds. Silence, at this moment, is complicity.
These negative outcomes and the surgical precision of their disparate impact on minority communities have been brought into stark relief by the COVID-19 crisis. Minority communities have suffered a disproportionately large number of deaths from COVID-19, with reasons stemming from poverty; lack of access to healthcare; crowded housing situations; bias at various levels; members holding a larger percentage of lowerpaid essential jobs that cannot be done remotely; and higher incidences of other medical conditions that complicate the disease. Most of these problems can be traced right back to the seeds of racial injustice planted decades ago in public and social institutions.
I commend that the Columbus Bar Association has chosen to be on the right side of history and speak up with this publication. I encourage you to take this occasion to read the stories of your peers and identify with their struggles, big and small; and I implore you to extend support to your peers from minority communities in every way you can.
The Asian Pacific American (APA) community has not been spared from the devastating fallout of COVID-19 either. The racism and blame unfairly heaped upon the APA community since the pandemic took hold has been particularly distressing to the members of the APA community. We stand in solidarity with the AsianAmerican owned businesses that have suffered
- Shweta Chaubey President, APABA-CO
Created by: Lauren Ashleigh
I See You #ArtUnitesCbus
Saleh Awadallah, President, AABAOHIO ARAB AMERICAN BAR ASSOCIATION OF OHIO The Arab American Bar Association of Ohio is honored to co-sponsor #CbusBarSpeaks.Arab Americans have a unique perspective on racial, ethnic and religious bias. We often find ourselves straddling different cultural, ethnic, religious and linguistic worlds. We have fought, and continue to fight, cultural, ethnic and religious stereotypes that are perpetrated daily in the media, books and the movies.
Everyone who wants to pursue life, liberty and happiness must be able to do so. Not everyone will be able to climb to the summit, but everyone should be able to feel that they had a fair shot to get to base camp. #CbusBarSpeaks is a collection of stories, personal stories. You can HEAR the stories. Or you can LISTEN to them. Listen to the struggles and obstacles that others see to achieving full participation. And then go and work together to lower the barriers or to lend a hand to help pull or boost your fellow bar member over the barrier.
As Arab American attorneys, we face some of the same challenges as do our fellow minority bar members. To counter racism, minorities must participate meaningfully in all systems of governance and society. And there is no system that has more of an impact than the legal system. Participation barriers must be lowered, if not eliminated entirely. Having a minority voice at the table is not only valuable to the minority but to the system as a whole.
As Arab American attorneys, we are proud to join the effort to make this world as equitable and just as possible.
- Saleh Awadallah President, AABAOHIO
Created by: Planthropy
Elia Diaz-Yaeger, President, HNBA HISPANIC NATIONAL BAR ASSOCIATION
As Americans, as lawyers and as people of color, we find ourselves at a moment of crisis and great challenge to our communities and to our nation. This pandemic has illuminated the vast systemic inequities that have defined our life and world for too many for too long. It’s important that we all voice those realities and bring awareness to them.
however, the national dialogue has boiled down to simplistic conversation about individual bias and “bad apples,” while ignoring real issues about unequal access to justice and disparate socioeconomic outcomes. Minority communities have the ability and the responsibility to act as a coalition with electoral power and advocate on shared concerns about pay equity, criminal justice, access to health care, education and other issues.
Because of the United States’ unique history around slavery and anti-blackness, Latinos are often left out of the bigger conversation regarding systemic racism. However, recently, that is beginning to change. Latinos are joining in the conversation noting that tu lucha es mi lucha (your struggle is my struggle). There can be no doubt that the fight against systemic racism is a fight that binds all communities of color together.
Latinos are implicitly left out of the national discussion addressing racial and ethnic discrimination and how systemic racism in education, housing and wealth affects them. To be sure, as a community we have our own history of anti-Black racism to contend with, and a collective failure to be inclusive of Afro-Latinos, who make up 25 percent of Latinos in the United States. All of these factors make it challenging to gain a foothold in the national conversation.
The high profile deaths of Black Americans like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery has triggered a national focus on the impact of systemic racism on Black Americans and on the ways the country can respond to it. Too often,
Anti-Blackness has deep and complicated roots throughout Latin America, where fair-skinned people are frequently viewed as the ideal and receive better treatment. Unfortunately, in many instances, those views are often carried over to the United States, where some believe that assimilation is the path to equality. Even the term “brown” can oversimplify matters for the Latino community, given that it is often used to describe people from multiple continents and different cultures, whose skin color can range from ivory to sienna. The opposite of a monolith, Latinos include people who have recently migrated to the United States and those whose families have been 22
The COVID-19 pandemic has torn through Black and Latino communities at disproportionately high rates, in part because so many are considered essential workers in agricultural fields, meatpacking plants, restaurants and hospitals across the country. Latinos account for a disproportionate number of cases, are over four times as likely to be hospitalized than White Americans, and their share of COVID-19 related deaths is increasing. The pandemic has highlighted the synergistic effects of systemic racism, combined with other factors, on the health of Latinos in the United States. Long-standing and ongoing social and economic inequities–including health literacy barriers, disproportionate employment as essential workers and limited access to employment and insurance benefits– leave Latinos at increased risk of contracting COVID-19 and having more severe cases of the disease.
power Latinos have and don’t have in this country. Despite our size and numbers, we have failed to use our power and voice effectively to advocate on our community’s behalf, and on the behalf of other minority communities. We need to grab this opportunity and use it to expand consciousness around our own community, to recognize our own strength and to rally our community to dismantle obstacles to greater equity in our community and increase access to justice for all. The Hispanic National Bar Association commends the Columbus Bar Association for creating this space and platform to discuss real issues affecting our communities, the solutions to address, and how we can accomplish them. As allied bar associations, we have often taken leadership roles in speaking out for each other’s communities. I look forward to continuing those dialogues and those allied actions together so that our struggles are met with united action.
Compound those concerns with a national discussion, Black Lives Matter, which affects us, but doesn’t explicitly mention us. For decades, Latinos have known that police brutality not only affects Black people, but Latino, Native American and low-income communities. A study by researchers at the Harvard Chan School of Public Health found that:
- Elia Diaz-Yaeger President, HNBA
Overall, police-related death rates were highest in neighborhoods with the greatest concentrations of low-income residents (vs high-income residents) and residents of color (vs non-Hispanic White residents). Latinos see themselves as part of a broader fight for racial equity. We need to encourage our families to have those difficult conversations. This is the time to recognize the contradiction of what kind of
 https://psmag.com/news/police-are-most-likely-to-use-deadlyforce-in-poorer-more-highly-segregated-neighborhoods  https://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/10.2105/AJPH.2018.304851
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The Black Professional BY DANIEL BEST workplace surrounded by those who didn’t look like them. The thoughts of the terror that Breonna Taylor or Ahmaud Arbery must have felt as they were gunned down made funneling out the gunpowder much harder. It weighed heavily, made it more difficult to smile at the camera for Zoom meetings. But the black professional remembered that they still needed to be a professional. Their education? Formal. Their job? Professional. Play the part. Be the part.
Most professionals have to look back at their billing entries and emails to figure out the work they did on Sunday, February 23, 2020, Friday, March 13, 2020, or Monday, May 25, 2020. But those three dates are forever seared in the mind of the black professional.
But then May 25, 2020 came. Social media and news sites started reporting on a story. It was the second time that day the black professional’s heart spiked. The first time was when a viral video where Christian Cooper encountered a white woman who threatened to weaponize the police against him. But he was okay, right?
The black professional knew what occurred on those dates was not unique. The black professional had faced news reports about the death of another black person. Each report filled up the black professional’s emotional reservoir with a fine layer of gunpowder. It took time to allow the gunpowder the opportunity to funnel out.
The black professional was taught to separate work from personal life, but they had to know what the newest alert was. It was a coping mechanism, a way to get in front of the flood of news as to not be
The black professional never became numb to the pain, but had to become more efficient in processing the pain in order to function in a
It took energy to put on an act. Posture? Open. Expression? Passive. Code? Switched. But after the kneel… that energy was… fading. blindsided by a coworker’s errant comment.
The perfect demeanor the black professional donned to blend in burned. But what can a black professional working in a predominately white field do? The black professional was taught to blend in with the predominate culture because of the old adage that they needed to present ourselves in a way that made the client… comfortable.
Even braced… the black professional wasn’t ready to watch the kneel. The black professional watched the footage from Minneapolis. They questioned what they had seen. Surely there was more to the story, right? There had to be some reason to justify the eight-minutes…. There had to be more to this story. Yes. There was more. But why… why did there have to be more to the story? That wasn’t what the black professional’s first thought, right? That’s what the black professional had absorbed from their coworkers whenever another black person had been gunned down at the hands of the police. “You get it, right?” The white professionals would say. But isn’t that what was said about Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many others?
It took energy to put on an act. Posture? Open. Expression? Passive. Code? Switched. But after the kneel… that energy was… fading. Reflect. A black professional does what it takes to make those around them feel comfortable. If they didn’t, then said gatekeepers wouldn’t trust the black professional. And if the professional gatekeepers don’t trust the black professional… then that black person would not be in that profession for long. So they had to reflect, right? Take time to sort things out, to make sense of a senseless situation. It’s… uncomfortable to just… sit.
Yet while watching the video something happened. It was too much… too soon. The reservoir had reached its capacity. Maybe it was the stress of the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic where society had mostly halted in March of 2020; maybe it was the May 5, 2020 video showing the final moments of Ahmaud Arbery’s life; or maybe it was, tragically on May 25, 2020, the video of Amy Cooper threatening to weaponize the police against Christian Cooper. But watching Officer Chauvin kneeling on George Floyd’s neck for eight minutes, 15 seconds was the spark on top of a powder keg that had been building. And there’s only one reaction that comes from when a spark strikes a full powder keg. Boom.
But there was a lot more noise than what the black professional was used to. Not only were they alight with their own raging emotions, it seemed that many of the black professional’s friends, who were not black, had many a thought on how black people should react to the recent “events.” The black professional shouldn’t have, but they continued scanning through social media sites, their supposed friends spouting vitriol as they fight against justice from a privileged viewpoint. Social media wasn’t good… Perhaps work would be an escape, just like it had been in the past. 26
Created by: Sarah DeAngulo Hout
We Are #ArtUnitesCbus
The Black Professional Continued.
Yet… there was no refuge at work. There were so many people who had so much to say about the kneel—strangely, they aren’t black. They used statistics to decry that police brutality was not an issue. They categorized the protests as senseless acts of violence. They attempted to use the victims’ perceived criminal past or acts as justification for them being murdered..
colleagues only saw the professional in them. They didn’t know how to handle the black professional who expressed their dual-identity. So the black professional went to work, unequipped to deal with the flood of emotions. No refuge, the black professional sat in isolation. They did not know how to extinguish the flames. They knew in time it would consume them. Yet the black professional did not care. The routine continued, the black professional thinking about Breonna Taylor, Ahmad Arbery, and George Floyd. About that kneel.
The black professional refused to stay silent. It was their comments about the state about black America that made the professionals around them step back, give them a wide berth as if they were afraid the black professional’s flames would consume them. So the black professional pulled back, not finding support in their educated coworkers.
But just when the black professional felt as if they were suffering alone, something else happened. The text messages and calls started trickling in. Friends and colleagues showing they cared just by reaching out to check in. The other black professionals who worked in their own workplaces reached out to one another, creating a network of support. The black professional reached out to them first.
They moved in silence. Posture? Open, but a little more guarded. Expression? Passive, but with sharper eyes. Code? Switched, but thoughts about the kneel… slipped. But no one seemed to listen, opting instead to share their views.
They met to talk about their frustration. It was not about extinguishing the fire. It was about creating a truly safe environment, safe because the black professionals knew they could trust each other based on the unifying emotions felt from processing the deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd, but of countless others. They also talked about their own workplace experiences as a minority in the profession.
A revelation. This was the first time, beyond diversity committees of course, that the black professionals’ white colleagues had chosen to share their views of black America. Such raw honesty… the black professional wondered if they had done such a good job at blending in that their 28
As they processed, they didn’t have to present a persona. Posture? Relaxed. Expression? Honest. Code? None. They black professionals could… breathe.
The black professional returned to their social networks, focusing on the friends that spoke the same words and had the same views as their allies. The black professional didn’t shy away from tough questions that their friends who still had much to learn about black America asked. It wasn’t exhausting to educate, it was an opportunity to share and help push society forward.
They together came up with a plan to best direct their flames without passing judgment on how others directed theirs. They acknowledged that society had come a long way, but still had a long way to go. They acknowledged that progress is not static. They acknowledged the advantages and disadvantages that came from having the dual identity of black and professional, and how to use both to develop their own role for pushing society forward.
The same was done at work. Yes, the black professional might be a, or sometimes the, minority where they work, but they still had to share their voice. The black professional encouraged their workplace to use their size and leverage to find more ways to end historic barriers that minorities have faced.
They rallied the support of their allies, a word that they had heard before. But actions spoke louder than reiteration of the role. The black professionals worked with their allies to develop a plan to change things. Both groups knew that the burden of eradicating systemic discrimination and racism did not solely belong to black America.
No, it wouldn’t be a fast process. Progress rarely is. But the black professional would do their part. Silence was no longer an option…. Silence was no longer the answer. Silence would no longer suffice. It was time to push for change.
That night the black professional slept a little easier, breathed… a little easier. The passion and fire wasn’t gone, but it was no longer all consuming. It was now a fire that brought warmth.
Daniel Best Root Inc. firstname.lastname@example.org
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Dear White Bosses in Columbus BY: ANONYMOUS I’m in my mid-thirties and to date I’ve held six professional positions (both legal and non-legal). However, in every single position, while I’ve been highly regarded as a valuable team player and a person the team leader could count on “closing” a project, I’ve never been viewed as someone worthy of developing for promotion. And in none of those organizations did I find a sponsor: someone willing to vouch for me because of my hard work and help me gain upward mobility within the organization.
Eighteen years ago, Keith A. Caver and Ancella B. Livers wrote an article entitled “Dear White Boss…, ” styled as a fictional letter from a Black manager to an anonymous white executive. The letter describes the challenge of inequity based on racial, gender or other differences and posits such inequity is debilitating for both people of color and the broader organization.
Trust me, I have a personal board of directors consisting of mentors who are lovely and invested in helping me succeed. But, we know that sponsors can make or break your career. It’s frustrating to see mediocre people within the organizations I’ve worked at get promoted not because of merit but simply due to affinity bias. In fact, the lack of sponsorship is the primary reason why I’ve left many of these positions.
As the largest civil rights movement unfolded this summer across our nation, I couldn’t help but wonder that neither our society nor our profession has been successful in making real change with regard to leveling the inequities that are faced by people of color. And I couldn’t help but deeply reflect on my own career to date.
Thankfully through personal growth (and lots and lots of therapy), I’ve managed to realize that even without a sponsor, I can have a fulfilling career. I’ve also learned to find joy in personal growth outside of my career: being the best cat mom I can, visiting a new country every year, honing my cooking skills and volunteering in my community. However, I would like to share some of my observations which might help the white bosses of Columbus, Ohio create a more equitable environment within their legal organizations. And hopefully, maybe in the next 18 years, we can strive for the change the 30
original “Dear White Boss…” had intended to catalyze.
To create a fair and equitable organization, white bosses have to take a multi-pronged approach. Here are some thoughts:
Create an intentional sponsorship program within your organization
Collect metrics on whether all junior employees have access to the same growth opportunities like special projects and flashy cases. If you find that POC routinely miss out on these opportunities, identify the barriers that are preventing this from happening.
When was the last time you sponsored a younger associate who did not look like you (i.e., in your same racial/ethnic group)? If your answer is once or never, then trust me, the other white leaders in your organization probably have the same answer. It’s easy to sponsor someone who went to the same private school as you or someone who enjoys the same type of sport as you, etc. etc. It’s easy to form a connection with these people because they’re innately like you! I encourage you, nay, challenge you, to take a chance on a young lawyer with whom you don’t have anything in common. And don’t just stop there. Create an internal program within your organization in which senior leadership are intentionally paired with junior associates and lawyers.
The elephant in the room: make salary data more transparent. Be transparent about promotions, including written documentation about people are promoted and why.
Ensure access to the same opportunities I think we could all agree that Columbus legal organizations are doing an amazing job recruiting diverse talent. But we can also agree that they’re not doing such a stellar job retaining that hardly recruited talent. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve left many organizations because I didn’t fit in the organizational culture or there was a demonstrated lack of upward mobility for people who looked like me within that organization.
Training One of the easiest ways to tackle affinity bias is to make implicit bias training mandatory for ALL senior leadership on a frequent basis, instead of a once-in-awhile afterthought. Make it a way of life in your organization so that people can recognize their inner biases and act accordingly. Also, recognize that your organization may not have the internal tools or resources to support POC. Encourage your POC to attend trainings and conferences so they identify mentors of color outside the workplace and also help articulate the support they need within your organization.
I think we could all agree that Columbus legal organizations are doing an amazing job recruiting diverse talent. But we can also agree that they’re not doing such a stellar job retaining that hardly recruited talent. 31
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Looking Ahead: Mapping Out an Effective Diversity & Inclusion Curriculum BY: JUDITH M. MCINTURFF single-message programs. Those programs resonate only with the already converted. In the alternative, map out a holistic curriculum that speaks to the largest audience, that weaves important information into a wider content, and that leaves the learner edified, inspired, and enriched. There is no such thing as exceptional programming by accident. Designing and delivering great diversity and inclusion programming is no exception to that rule.
It is inarguable that diversity and inclusion education is necessary. It is equally inarguable that much of the traditional audience for such education is those who are predisposed to hearing and understanding the content. What about all the rest of those who should hear and need to hear the message? This is the audience who would most benefit from a deeper understanding of the foundational issues that have brought us to where we are as a society.
Letâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s start with the goal of education. At its core, education is designed to prepare the learner for the real world by imparting factual information and subsequently teaching how to assimilate that information into working competencies. Those core skills serve as a baseline for future intellectual and personal growth which can then be bolstered with new information and result in continual positive learning outcomes. Desired learning outcomes are achieved by delivering a thoughtful continuum of learning opportunities, mapped out in a meaningful way to achieve stated learning goals. Informed and thoughtful curriculum mapping will result in growth of core knowledge, skills and basic legal competencies. More important, mapping out a meaningful curriculum provides the learner with ongoing reinforcement of accumulated knowledge, while introducing new information along the way. Because of this strategy, the learner can freely associate information which leads to a higher level of thinking and understanding.
How do we design programming that is both educational and inspirational? Entertaining and informative? Engaging and aspirational? And programming that serves the purpose of providing valuable knowledge and understanding to the nontraditional listener? Educators struggle with these questions and find that traditional teaching methodologies simply are not drawing the desired audience or result. In that failure to land the right message to the right audience we can cull important academic lessons. The most important of those lessons is simple: do not plan programs that are one-dimensional,
Sound lofty and difficult? This strategy is really very simple and depends on a few basics. 33
3. Identify the Desired Learning Outcome There are many strategies that can be employed in writing a meaningful curriculum, but it is fundamental that any curriculum must be designed to foster cumulative knowledge; must grow and reinforce core competence; must flow in a controlled and cohesive manner; and must avoid needless redundancies. Educational nirvana is achieved when the learner’s default behavior is to seamlessly employ knowledge about the subject into their everyday lives because the subject has become normalized such that it is a basic block in the thinking strategy of the learner.
1. Identify What You Want to Teach In the world of D&I, the obvious goal is to underscore the importance of the subject as applied in the real world. Frequently overlooked is teaching the fundamentals of the topic and how those very fundamentals impact human behavior and every other substantive area of the law. Teaching a few stand-alone classes in diversity and/or inclusion here and there will not result in any meaningful or deep understanding of even the most basic content, much less lead to important real-world insights. We don’t know what we don’t know. And we particularly don’t know what we don’t want to know about ourselves, our biases and our self- imposed worldview.
Examples of effective curriculum mapping include:
2. Identify to Whom and How You Want to Teach We clearly want to continue to preach to the choir. The choir is that community of learners that will do our outreach, will convert others, and will model the skill set we universally want to emulate. Our desired audience are those who shun the subject. As a result we need to teach the content in different ways. Avoid using the words diversity and/or inclusion in program titles. Use classic or current literature and movies as a more subtle springboard to content delivery. Consciously weave D&I content into substantive area CLEs. Just like professional conduct must be woven into substantive education, diversity and inclusion should also be purposefully included in a wide array of educational programming. Teach content manner designed to build, reinforce and retain knowledge.
12 MONTH CURRICULUM MAPPING Using a singular theme, map courses around the theme. (Example: voting rights) Subparts of the theme include both core substantive classes, aspirational programming, and conversations. CLE requirements such as professional conduct, technology competence, are woven into the programming. Diversity and Inclusion instruction is included in some fashion in each program.
DISCRETE SUBSTANTIVE AREA CURRICULUM MAPPING
Generally, our expectations of learning outcomes for programming simply cannot be met by offering a crazy quilt of options and hoping that one of the options will resonate with the audience. Creation of a long-term holistic curriculum that is designed to inspire, edify and educate, and that speaks to the widest range of listeners will result in impactful education. The bonus is that this type of education results in professional and personal growth that could not be otherwise achieved.
Using a single substantive area of the law (example: domestic relations), map a curriculum series that teaches that area of the law. The multi-class curricula is designed to start at a designated competency level (beginner, intermediate or advanced), with the goal of achieving an increased level of competence. As in the 12-month curriculum mapping strategy, D & I instruction is woven into the curriculum.
SYMBIOTIC CURRICULUM MAPPING Judith M. McInturff Columbus Bar Association email@example.com
Identify an area of general interest that can be taught from a legal point of view. (Example: history). Teach both substantive law and aspirational principles as part of the programming. Design multiple classes and offer multiple related activities (movies, books, conversations). Close the educational loop by tying up the fundamentals taught to current legal events.
Created by: Adam Hernandez
Let Us Not Tire #ArtUnitesCbus
Hosted by author, speaker, business attorney and negotiation expert Kwame Christian, M.A., Esq., Negotiate Anything is the world’s leading negotiation podcast. Breaking records with nearly two million downloads, its growing audience is represented by listeners in more than 180 countries. “The best things in life are on the other side of difficult conversations,” Christian says. “Each episode is designed to give listeners at least one practical tip that they can immediately employ in the next difficult conversation. People are listening because they have a specific need. I strive to be clear, concise, and encouraging. Confidence is an important ingredient to success. There’s no other show that packages this kind of information the way that we do.”
Listeners gain skills and insights to help them confidently manage conflict, enhance personal and professional relationships, reduce fear and anxiety, and develop the confidence needed for successful negotiations. Negotiate Anything has aired more than 200 episodes since its 2016 launch, including interviews with former Ohio Supreme Court Justice Yvette McGee Brown, the president of Otterbein, John Comerford, and Jim Tressel, former football coach for The Ohio State University. Now part of the Acast Network, Negotiate Anything can also be found wherever one seeks great podcasts including Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Audible, Pandora, Buzzsprout, Stitcher, Podbean, Simplecast, and iHeart Radio.
Created by: Miss Birdy
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A How-To Guide:
Having Difficult Conversations about Race BY: Kwame Christian So when it comes to difficult conversations about race, these are tough --- and they're tough for everybody. There are three main reasons why: (1) We have a fear of political reprisal. Within our organization, there is a social hierarchy and we don't want to lose our place by making a mistake in a difficult conversation about race. Similarly, (2) there's social reprisal. We don't just go to work to make money. We also have friends there. We have relationships. We care about our colleagues, and we don't want to risk offending somebody. And lastly, (3) while the risks are very clear, the payoffs often aren't.
We're entering a time where race is at the height of human consciousness. And this is a great opportunity for us to start to make strides towards equity and inclusion. My motto is that the best things in life are on the other side of difficult conversations. Now, as it relates to difficult conversations about race, if we want to create a more inclusive environment and move towards equity, we're going to have to have these tough conversations.
And so we say, “listen, it's not worth the risk.” “Why should I have this conversation? There's so much to
Remember this: This is tough for everybody. Don't let fear be a signal that you need to avoid the conversation. Fear shows us that it's important to us lose.” And, we disengage.
The framework I recommend is intentionally simple and easy to remember, even in those emotional moments when you’re not functioning at your best. It's a simple three-part framework. Part number one is to acknowledge and validate emotions. Part number two: get curious with compassion. And finally, part number three: joint problem-solving.
Remember this: This is tough for everybody. Don't let fear be a signal that you need to avoid the conversation. Fear shows us that it's important to us. It's important, so we should lean into these conversations and strive to engage in ways that make it more likely we will create the environments that we want to see.
COMPASSIONATE CURIOUSITY FRAMEWORK
When it comes to these difficult conversations, it is extremely tempting to try to figure out what a person's intent is. Why did they say that? Why did they do that? This is problematic because it leads to a very unproductive dialogue: you accuse them of doing something with intent; they say they did not intend to do that. And then there’s stalemate, which doesn't get us the outcome that we want.
The first step in the compassionate curiosity framework is acknowledging and validating emotions. This is the most important part of the process because it helps us to overcome emotional barriers. Acknowledging and validating emotions can be done by using phrases like: “it sounds like,” or “it seems like.” The reason we do this is because when we label an emotion, the person needs to think logically in order to accept or reject the emotion. This cognitive process has a calming effect as the person slows down in order to express themselves.
Instead, a simple trick that you can use is giving them the benefit of the doubt. Now, listen, I'm not saying that we don't hold people accountable. We're not giving them a pass. We're still going to hold them accountable. But what we're doing is freeing ourselves from the need to be the mind-police. Now, we can focus on the actions that were taken and the impact that those actions had. And that's it. Because ultimately what we want to do is change behavior. So let's focus on that behavior, and in turn make it a lot easier to have a productive dialogue.
So what does this look like in practice? Let's say one of your colleagues comes to you and confides in you with a story about something that somebody said to them that they found offensive. Before we jump into problem solving, we first acknowledge and validate the emotions. We say, “it sounds like this really had an impact on you.” And that's it. Perhaps we even take it to the next level and say, “that makes sense.” That's it. With those two comments, we’ve acknowledged the emotion by labeling it, and then we've validated it by saying that it makes sense. Once you see the person start to calm down, then you can transition to problem
In conversations about race, it's important to apply a replicable framework due to the highly emotional nature of these conversations. 41
solving, but not before you handle the emotional issue.
try to find a solution that works." And if you do this the right way in these conversations, it can feel like a brainstorming session: they give some solutions, you give some solutions.
When it comes to persuasion, the secret weapon is curiosity. Asking great questions really moves the conversation forward and makes it more likely that you're going to get what you want. Note, it's important to ask questions with a compassionate tone. That's why I say to get curious with compassion. A simple way to soften your tone in these conversations is to lead with, "Out of curiosity," and then ask your question. That always makes what comes next sound a little bit softer. And also when we're asking these questions, we want to stick with open-ended questions that start with who, what, where, when and how. Notice that I avoided the word why, and that's because the word why is often associated with judgment. And we want to make sure that we don't create an opportunity to take what we're saying in the wrong way.
Collaboration builds commitment. If each person feels like they had a part in the process, it makes it a lot more likely that they're going to commit to a plan for the long term. If, instead, each person feels as though the idea or solution was forced onto them, then thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s likely to be resistance, and compliance down the road is less likely. By bringing both parties into the process, as an added bonus, you get better ideas because youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re considering multiple perspectives, which nearly always yields a better end product.
COMMON MISTAKES TO AVOID There are so many possible mistakes when it comes to difficult conversations about race, but let's focus on the three.
With joint problem solving, what we're doing is we're inviting the other person into the process. We're saying, "Hey, you have something to contribute, I have something to contribute, let's work together to
Mistake number one: it's easy to get defensive. Especially, if we're confronted with information about ourselves that we find to be unflattering Instead of getting defensive and immediately defending yourself, take the time to listen. Appreciate what the person is saying. Because they're sharing a perspective of you and your behavior that you cannot or do not see, recognize it is an opportunity to improve. Also, remember how defensiveness registers to the other side. If I'm sharing an issue that affects my community, or that affects me personally, and you're primarily concerned about your image and your reputation, what does that do to our relationship? Remember, preserving that relationship is what's most important so be sure to avoid a defensive response.
Compassionate Curiosity Framework
Mistake number two: vilifying the other side. We have said it before. These conversations are difficult, and they are highly, highly emotional. And one of the emotions that we can feel is anger. Oftentimes, if we're angry, we come in these conversations too hot and it creates unnecessary resistance. Think about the law of physics and how it applies here: every action has an equal and opposite reaction. If we come in too hot, sometimes we invite resistance that we don't need to experience. Take the time and win that internal negotiation. Breathe deeply and approach it in a way that is strategic and calibrated to meet your goals.
point where youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re no longer performing at a high level. It's important to take the time to take care of yourself so you can be that ally and advocate that we need as we march toward progress. So really what we're doing here is creating a system of unnatural responses to these difficult conversations. Think about it: your instinctual response in conversations about race, what you really want to say, what your emotions drive you to say -oftentimes it's going to be the wrong thing. We need to begin re-training ourselves using the Compassionate Curiosity Framework, and other negotiation techniques, to make sure that when we are faced with difficult conversations about race, we respond appropriately.
Mistake number three: burning out. When you care about an issue, which I assume you do because you're reading this article, it often happens that we focus too much on helping others, and improving the situation, and not enough on our own self care. You need to listen to your body. Listen to your mind. Listen to your emotions. How are you feeling? If you push too hard, you can, and will, reach a breaking
Kwame Christian, Esq. , M.A. American Negotiation Institute Carlile Patchen & Murphy LLP 43
Step 1: Analyze the Situation What is your goal in this conversation? (Note- venting is a legitimate goal.) What outcomes do you hope to achieve? What outcomes do they hope to achieve? What problems are you trying to solve? What do you want from them? Behavior change? Perspective change? Commitment to do something? What are your options if you donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t get what you want out of the conversation? Who is your audience? What do they think about the situation? What evidence do you have to support this (how do you know this to be true)? What do they feel about the situation? What are the barriers to success?
Step 2: Creating & Implementing Strategy
What will I do or say if I get offended or upset? What is the worst thing they can say and how will I handle that? How will I reframe the conversation if the other person gets offended or upset? How could I use the Compassionate Curiosity Framework here? 1) Acknowledge and validate emotions What emotions am I feeling? What emotions are they/might they be feeling? 2) Get curious with compassion What are 5 open-ended questions I could ask that could increase my understanding and lead them to see things from my perspective? Examples: What impact do you think this policy has on people of color? How do you think it makes me feel when you? What can we do as a company to achieveâ&#x20AC;Ś? How can we help the cause as a company? What can we do to be more inclusive? What can you do to help to make this happen? By when do you think you can do that?
3) Joint problem solving What can actually be done? How are you going to get them to commit to change? Example: My fear is that we have these conversations and nothing happens. What can we do to make sure that we keep the momentum?
Step 3: Keep Learning When it comes to having difficult conversations, there is always more we can learn. Keep improving. We know these conversations are difficult and uncomfortable. However, like all things, the more we actively engage and continue to practice with purpose, the easier these conversations will become. Weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re here for you and we want to be a resource. We can help with training and coaching. Whether you want a custom training for your company or want to improve your skills with one on one coaching, we can help you to prepare for all of the difficult conversations in your life.
s n o i t a s r e v n o c id fficult
about Race 45
CbusBarSpeaks CbusBarSpeaks WE INVITED THE COLUMBUS LEGAL COMMUNITY TO SHARE ITS EXPERIENCES WITH, AND RESPONSES TO RACISM IN OUR LEGAL COMMUNITY.
We are listening.
On Getting to know us... or not. When I was a first year associate, on a couple of different occasions, partners at my own firm assumed I was with the client. The first occasion was at a sports game where we were entertaining a client. It was not until the client pointed out to the partner that I was an associate at the firm and not an employee of the company, that he realized his mistake. On a different occasion, I was in a client meeting, and another partner walked into the room as we were getting settled. He introduced himself to me as if I were the client, to which I politely cued to him that I was an associate at the firm. While these stories could certainly be rationalized and explained away, I don't believe that the same assumptions would have been made if I were white. They are benign mistakes, yet implicitly reinforced the feeling that I do not belong here. Many associates of color already feel this way, because as we look around the firm, we don't see very many who look like us, especially in the partnership ranks. We already feel out of place in a law firm because many of us are first generation lawyers. While not intending to exclude, the messaging behind these interactions is that, when I see you, my first assumption is that you are not with us.
THE ISSUE: I'm invisible. Being one among many already subconsciously suggests that you're not truly meant to be there. This notion is reinforced by the decades of discrimination that made it so. Being mistaken for a client, a support staff member, or a law student -- all of which have been reported -- only serves to underscore that notion. Recognize that as a general matter, we avoid what does not reflect ourselves; our normal. This is done subconsciously and without intent. Nevertheless, it does occur, and leads to disconnect, unnecessary feelings of embarrassment, isolation, and discrimination. ADDRESSING IT: Be purposeful. When new attorneys are hired on, stop by their office. Ask them to lunch. Read through their bios. Pay attention to who is on your team to strengthen it. See someone who doesn't look like you, assume you'll subconsciously create distance and go out of your way to connect. 47
As a Black female attorney who has worked at 4 major law firms, I've never received critical feedback outside of an annual review and each annual review has blindsided me. I turn in assignments and consistently asked for feedback, but am always told, "it was good," "thanks," or "I'll get back to you" (which never happens even if I follow up). But when it's time for annual reviews, suddenly the partners have all of this super specific criticism and feedback on assignments I did months ago that they've harbored and shared with other partners behind my back, tainting their view of me and my work. And I'll discover the issue was usually something very simple that, if told, I could have corrected months ago-- and not made the same mistake on later assignments. In other cases I'll find the issue was actually a non-issue that I could have explained to the partner if they bothered to talk to me. Meanwhile, my white colleagues would get immediate feedback, partners would talk through changes on assignments, or they'd get sent to a CLE for further training on a topic/skill with which they needed work.
THE ISSUE: Mistakes + feedback = growth. Minority attorneys report a lack of critical and timely feedback. Instead, mistakes are noted as a marker of capability and the work simply stops. This leads to frustration for all parties and halts the professional development of the attorney requesting feedback. It also damages the relationship as it erodes a sense of mutual respect. Further, without a clear understanding of what is preventing an attorney from moving forward - and therefore how to alleviate that obstacle -attorneys become disillusioned, feel ostracized and are likely to eventually seek out an environment that is more transparent and inclusive.
On feedback... or lack thereof
feedback for each attorney? Is it standardized? What assignment rotation system is employed at your place of business? Are all attorneys given an opportunity to improve their performance after an issue is identified? What professional development or career coaching opportunities does your place of employment provide? These are all questions to first consider and then address. The more structured your feedback system, the better. All attorneys are then able to easily identify when and how they will be assessed which builds confidence and trust. When an issue arises, attorneys know what it is and are put in a position to learn and improve as a result of it, rather than simply feeling defeated, or worse yet, oblivious --- until performance reviews come along.
ADDRESSING IT: Examine your feedback system. Does one exist? Who monitors it? How frequent and detailed is the 48
On lies and patterns I was a Black mid-level female attorney hired at a large law firm because I have a great background. My interviews went well and I was promised all sorts of meaningful work and support that would line up with the expertise I had built in previous positions. What I was given was a small amount of doc review, while white attorneys my junior were given more substantive work, training, and other opportunities. When I raised concern about the lack of amount and substantive work I was getting, I was frozen out of work completely and told I needed to work harder to travel to other offices to get work. By contrast, when my white colleagues asked for more work, partners went out of their way to give it to them and call their partners in other offices. I later learned that partners in my office were told, behind my back, that I didn't want to do their work. It became clear that I was there to fill their diversity quota and not actually develop a career. I also later learned that other attorneys who looked like me in Columbus had the same/similar experiences at other law firms, at different levels of practice, and in different practice areas.
THE ISSUE: I'm being denied the ability to do the job I was hired for - or was I? A relationship between an attorney and their employer is meant to be symbiotic in providing mutual benefit. The attorney offers their expertise their client base, and their hours to add to the firms profitability. The employer offers a path to development as a professional and an opportunity for advancement. When the relationship shows itself to be one-sided, the relationship will quickly devolve. This one-sided approach is repeatedly reported by minority attorneys. Their firms hire them either begrudgingly, or with enthusiasm from the friendly hiring committee that is a stark contrast from the day-to-day reality of the practice area or firm's actual culture. Luring minority attorneys in with the promise of substantive work, only to take it away is a sure way to lose that hire and sully your reputation among other minority attorneys. ADDRESSING IT: Review your assignment system. Have a means to monitor the level and type of work that your attorneys are being assigned. Note when more senior attorneys are not working on matters consistent with their experience. Ask questions and don't be afraid to reallocate. Take professional development seriously and recognize it as the tool it is for retaining top minority talent. 49
I've noticed a cycle where if one Black attorney leaves a firm, another is hired with no real regard for whether the attorney will fit within the organization. This allows the firm to keep their number steady and claim a "commitment" to diversity.
THE ISSUE: Checking boxes alone just leads to move boxes. With an increased focus on diversity over the past several years from clients and the legal community at large, it is easy to get hyper-focused on the numbers. How many minority attorneys do we have - it's a worthwhile question. But so too is why have the minority attorneys we once had left? A straight answer can admittedly be hard to find, but an honest comparison of your organization compared to the one that the attorney is leaving you for can shed some light. Again, put the numbers aside. Higher pay is tempting to chalk up as the deciding factor. But more often then not, when asked, minority attorneys will report that they are leaving one opportunity to pursue another due to the a desire for a change in work culture.
On revolving doors... and numbers
ADDRESSING IT: Consider what your team is missing, and seek it out. Minority attorneys want to be valued for their skill, expertise and experience - not simply their skin color helping to keep the numbers up. Consider the skills that are lacking on your current team; consider your succession plan makeup; what type of person do you need to make your team strong? What characteristics would that person need to possess. Assess your candidates accordingly, but cast a wide enough net that you find candidates that also could add to the diverse makeup of your organization. Minorities can quickly assess if they were simply a diversity hire and, if so, will likely continue the trend of the revolving minority. 50
On being muzzled. I cannot express discontent or dissent - with firm policy; with what is happening in the world generally, or my world specifically; with a strategy decision; nor with a performance review. I won't be fired on the spot. Instead, I'll just be labeled as judgmental, opinionated, or difficult. My suggestions or valid and constructive criticism will not be viewed as a team player who wants to help the organization increase retention, identify barriers to eliminate for our employees, ultimately leading to a happier and healthier place of business - generally and financially. Because of my skin color, if they are considered at all, it will be considered burdensome and unnecessary. It will have an effect on when and how often I receive future work product. Instead of reflecting positively that I can review situations objectively and share critical insight, a desirable leadership skill, it will be - and has been - assigned the value of a grumble. No matter what is going on in the firm or in the world, my face, body language, and attitude must project positivity and receptivity. It is exhausting feels like the only way I am acceptable is as a cheerleader.
THE ISSUE: A short list of acceptable behavior. The range of behaviors that are deemed appropriate for minority professionals is narrow. Happy teammate. Helpful colleague. Outgoing work friend. Grateful. Timely. Overprepared. Unassuming. These all fall well within bounds. But once that behavior extends to things like: questioning norms; revaluating strategy in light of new experiences or information; taking risks; voicing concern -- suddenly the minority professional has stepped out of favor. These behaviors , from other groups - mainly majority men - are seen as positive, desirable and expected. Not so for minorities. ADDRESSING IT: Invite honest dialogue in the workplace. Ask your colleagues regularly for suggestions to improve work culture in non-adversarial settings. Implement suggestions. When it comes to challenging strategy or aiming for innovation, encourage your leadership to strive to innovate always. By seeking out differing perspectives, you can lead to more well-reasoned decision-making. 51
I was asked on a client pitch because I was black and female. To be clear, I was not asked to come to the actual pitch. Rather, I was asked to meet them at the lobby door. I was the token Black female attorney invited to a client pitch because the potential client valued diversity. I was then not permitted to speak at said pitch. I was also placed on various RFPs for other potential clients without my knowledge and with the firm having no intent of giving me any work on the project.
THE ISSUE: Being used. There is little that can make a minority attorney feel less like a valued and legitimate member of the team then parading them into environments where minority representation is expected, without any expectation that they actually contribute. This example is one that has been cited frequently from Columbus colleagues with the recent push for diverse representation in RFPs and client pitches. Being asked to participate is not the issue: the issue is quite the opposite, being asked to participate in a hallow and empty way that does nothing at all for the attorney's professional development, but instead attempts only to harvest their minority status for the organization's ends.
On pitching to clients... sort of
ADDRESSING IT: Give minority attorneys meaningful work. Again, if having a minority attorney work on a matter gives a greater probability of landing a particular client, that is nothing to be ashamed of -- but let the attorney actually do the work. If there is a skill gap, address it. Invest in equipping your team to be a skillful and strategic group. Assign roles in ways that make sense given the tasks at hand and the requirements of your clients. If you are unable or unwilling to do this, ask yourself why 5 times in a row to get to what is really holding you and your team back and creating a toxic environment for the minority members of your team.
Created by: Lea Barker
Let Equality Bloom #ArtUnitesCbus 53
Created by: Justin Nottke & Kristen Schwenger
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