Member Groups

The Challenge
The newsletter of the ISBA’s Standing Committee on Racial and Ethnic Minorities and the Law

February 2018, vol. 28, no. 1

Chair’s column

Our world grows smaller every day thanks to the Internet and various applications that allow us to communicate with family, friends and colleagues almost instantaneously. We share photos with friends and family, and talk about their activities as though we were there cheering them on. We share articles with colleagues and meet with them although separated by dozens if not thousands of miles. Technology also allows us to travel physically to meet with loved ones, acquaintances, and colleagues, participate in seminars and festivals, and sightsee around the globe. What would be considered our own back yard has grown exponentially in a world where we can see and touch and feel other cultures in a matter of hours and days rather than months and years. Against this backdrop, we can clearly see our similarities, and understand our shared humanity. Our closeness should lead us to love one another as we are no longer strangers, with customs that are alien to one another. But that is not the case as demonstrated repeatedly by stories in the news. There are those who insist that only persons with similar cultural and ethnic backgrounds are acceptable. Anyone who is different must be rejected as worthless and cannot be considered an equal.

There is a monument in Georgia to Haitians who fought in the Battle of Savannah in 1779. The Haitian Chasseurs Volontaires covered the retreat of a combined French and American force whose frontal assault on Savannah had been repelled by the British. The bulk of the French and American force survived because of the bravery of the Chasseurs Volontaires. Perhaps knowledge about this feat of bravery and other contributions by Haitians to our country would lead to acceptance and a lessening of the rhetoric of hate. In an interview with ABC 7, Dr. Henry Ford, Chief of Surgery at Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles, noted he has a brother who is Chief of Internal Medicine at Einstein Hospital in Philadelphia, another brother who is an anesthesiologist in New York, and three sisters who are nurses. This family of Haitian immigrants is contributing to the advancement of American society. I am also Haitian American, having moved to this country with my parents as a child. Like Dr. Ford, I believe that my family has contributed to American society. I have a sister who is a nurse in New York, a brother who is an accountant in Florida, a sister who is an OB/GYN in California, and three sisters, respectively an internist, a chemist and an administrator at a major hospital, in the Chicago area. Dr. Ford’s family and mine are not unique, as the unfortunate circumstance for Haiti is that 85% of Haitian professionals live in Canada, the United States, France and other countries.

If hate is the currency being used to divide our society, we must fight it at every turn. As Chair of the Racial and Ethnic Minorities and the Law Committee, I am particularly proud of the efforts of our members to pursue the values of diversity and inclusion. I need look no further than our Newsletter to see these values demonstrated. Judge Geraldine D’Souza speaks of her father who emigrated to the U.S. from India, earned his PhD in Mechanical Engineering, and, among many contributions, served as a Professor at IIT Kent for 30 years. Board Liaison, Sony Williams, a member of the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism since from 2005 until 2016, presented a report and recommendation that one of the 6 hours of the professional responsibility continuing legal education requirement be devoted to the area of diversity and inclusion. And our very own Editor, Khara Coleman writes an article summarizing Pena-Rodriguez v. Colorado, the Supreme Court’s decision that racial bias affecting jury deliberations may be the basis for a new trial. Beyond the Newsletter, our Continuing Legal Education Subcommittee continues to plan great seminars on issues impacting minorities, including an upcoming seminar on racially based voter repression, and last year’s seminars on housing injustice and the inappropriate use of non-competition agreements. Our Committee also has an active voice on legislation, providing comments to the Illinois State Bar Association on legislation proposed by Illinois Senators and State Representatives with potential impact on minorities. Lastly, we seek to impact the very face of the Bar Association through recommendations regarding inclusion and diversity.

I am honored to serve as Chair of the Standing Committee on Racial & Ethnic Minorities and the Law, and urge attorneys, whether or not they are members of the Illinois State Bar Association, to fight for justice, diversity and inclusion, and against hatred, intolerance and divisiveness.