The newsletter of the ISBA’s Diversity Leadership Council
A response to Attorney General Eric Holder’s remarks
As lawyers, we are trained to tackle intellectual problems daily; however, a lack of diversity and troubled race relations cannot be easily analyzed and solved like a legal issue. Race relations have improved considerably due to law prohibiting discriminatory behavior, generational change and growing diversity in the nation; however, intentional and unintentional racial disparities continue to exist.
Eric Holder addressed race rela- tions during his speech to the Justice Department in February 2009. The most quoted phrase from his speech describing the United States “as a nation of cowards” caused a major debate. Many people were upset and confused by his comments because race relations have improved. We have elected the nation’s first African American president, appointed the first African American Attorney General, and have numerous women and men holding leadership positions in fields of law, government, corporate and education. Unfortunately, much racial interaction is superficial. Holder acknowledged race relations have improved, as experienced by many in the friendly interaction during work time, but noted the lack of interaction outside of work and voluntary segregation on weekends. Race relations cannot be analyzed and summarized; nor can the troubles surrounding the issue be resolved by employing a few minorities or women and claiming diversity. We don’t discuss race relations, many times we omit race in our discussions and don’t regularly interact with individuals outside of our comfort zone. Members of the Bar are still part of an elite club and unfortunately the club is not always diverse. Like the nation, the Bar continues to break barriers and open doors to women and minorities. However, like this nation, we still have room for improvement. Even though numbers have improved, many minorities and women are invisible in the practice of law. Adverse race relations could prevent our growth as a nation and could also prevent the continued growth
and diversity of the Bar. In his position as Attorney General, Holder will tackle the civil rights issues that plague this nation. However, Holder cannot tackle race rela- tions alone. A large portion of the nation is still uncomfortable about discussing race relations and this discomfort is preventing us from the real racial reconciliation that we desire. Unfortunately, discussions of race issues requires a high tolerance for intellectual and emotional conflict due to the uncomfortable top- ics associated with race such as school inequality, wealth and affirmative action. The discussions must be based on a mutual respect among individuals will- ing to discuss the issues.