As our systems continue to fail Black Americans, LCL MA recognizes and supports the work we need to do to stop racism, especially in the legal profession.
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Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers, Massachusetts is an organization that stands against racism, bigotry, and hatred in all of its forms. As we collectively grieve the tragic deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd, we are reminded of the long list of other Black Americans who have been, and continue to be, marginalized, disrespected, victimized and killed. We are here to offer support to all those in the legal community affected by the recent (and historic) events in our country and to those who are working toward systemic change.
“The events of the last few months have reminded us of what African-Americans know all too well: that too often, by too many, black lives are not treated with the dignity and respect accorded to white lives,” as pointed out in June 3rd’s Letter from the Seven Justices of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.
Our organization is committed to promoting well-being and resilience in the legal community. Racism undermines both well-being and justice. Our organization stands in solidarity with the Black community. We recognize the ongoing trauma and marginalization our Black colleagues endure. We understand the hardships experienced by those who fight for change personally and professionally.
We are here to help lawyers, law students, and judges in Massachusetts process trauma, as well as feelings of helplessness, anger, anxiety, grief, disgust, frustration, and address mental health concerns. Members of the Massachusetts legal profession can find more on scheduling an appointment with a licensed clinician here.
Further as expressed in the Letter from the Chief Justices,
As lawyers, we must also look at what we are doing, or failing to do, to provide legal assistance to those who cannot afford it; to diminish the economic and environmental inequalities arising from race; and to ensure that our law offices not only hire attorneys of color but also truly welcome them into the legal community.
And as members of the legal community, we need to reexamine why, too often, our criminal justice system fails to treat African-Americans the same as white Americans, and recommit ourselves to the systemic change needed to make equality under the law an enduring reality for all. This must be a time not just of reflection but of action.
There is nothing easy about any of this. It will be uncomfortable: difficult conversations, challenging introspection, hard decisions. We must recognize and address our own biases, conscious and unconscious. We must recognize and condemn racism when we see it in our daily lives.
We recognize the reality our Black colleagues face that Shenequa Golding describes in her article titled, Maintaining Professionalism in the Age of Black Death Is … A Lot:
We’re tired, angry, confused and yet, this space is familiar to us. This place of torment and trauma has become a home of sorts. The cycle begins in the far corners of Twitter with rumblings of a killing. Then a recording of the victim’s last moments pop up and shortly after, we finally learn the person’s name.
A new name to add to a growing list no one wants to be part of.
We recognize the additional labor our Black colleagues face specifically in Massachusetts as Danielle Johnson describes in her article for the BBA, Walk a Mile in My Shoes: A Day in the Life of a Black Woman Attorney:
I sigh, recalling the day the court officer singled me out: “Hey, you can’t sit there. You a lawyer?” Moving past colleagues to an empty seat, I speculate that they are wondering: “Does she know this section is for attorneys?” This is the daily reality of what it means to be an attorney of color in Massachusetts, navigating unwritten tests to prove that I exist, I am qualified, and that I belong.
We all have blind spots, and becoming accustomed to life-as-it-is can blind us to realities that we need not simply accept. Moments like the current one, in which undeniable brutality is highlighted, can make much more salient the realities that are more comfortable to deny, including at this time the recognition of the extent to which chronic racism and inequity are embedded in our culture. Our heightened awareness provides an opportunity to ask ourselves, as in therapy, what we each can do to counteract this malignant force in our society. People will always have a darker side, driven by fear, greed, lust for power, etc. But let us seek together to take responsibility for our choices, motivations, and prejudices and to act in a way that is commensurate with our values.
As recently put by educator Dwayne Reed, “White supremacy won’t die until White people see it as a White issue they need to solve rather than a Black issue they need to empathize with.”
We commit to support the work ahead as expressed in the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Statement from the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Standing Committee on Lawyer Well-Being.