“Our understanding is that you have self-identified as diverse.”
That was the exact sentence phrased in an email I received from my law school the day following the election. It was actually an email encouraging me to register for the 1L Diversity Expo to take place two days later, made up of a majority of large law firms with maybe two public interest and government employers. One day after that email, the University finally sent out a response which was seven paragraphs long but said essentially nothing, aside from a bare-minimum commitment that they wouldn’t accept harassment, racism, or discrimination while also stating our “community” draws strength from differences of opinion and perspective. I fail to see how a difference of “opinion” regarding the humanity of marginalized people would give any community strength. I remain here, exhausted that my “diverse” identity is constantly tokenized while I’m also told to accept people who hate us in the name of “open-mindedness”.
I know very little about this new institution of higher education that I am a part of, but I have learned bits and pieces over my few months here. During the shooting of Michael Brown and the continuing police brutality in the Ferguson protests, Washington University remained silent and continues to hardly have a relationship with the segregated black communities of St. Louis and its surrounding areas. A recent rally held on campus in response to the election was only allowed to take place after various compromises, and it was subsequently framed by local media as a peaceful love rally focused on unification and healing, pitting it in stark contrast to the supposedly violent anti-Trump protests that have been taking place elsewhere across the country. Images of white organizers and a beautiful campus at sunset could only paint the event even more as the idyllic counterpart to the angry, unabashed pain and sadness led by organizers of color.
I refuse to be part of that narrative. I entered law school with a pretty specific goal that I want to do impact litigation to advance justice for marginalized communities because this nation and its laws have so often denied that. I also refuse to be coaxed into a line of work I have no passion or interest in, despite their calls for “diverse” candidates like me. I’ve quickly begun to realize that there is something incredibly intentional about legal education and its career opportunities that understandably pushes the majority to pursue work in corporate spheres in order to pay off debts and attain higher socioeconomic class, while the public sector remains underfunded and unappealing due to lower salaries and scarcity of secure jobs. This process in and of itself is part of the “wealth defense industry” which upholds America’s white oligarchy and stark wealth inequality. Law school has so far been an academically rigorous and draining process with little time for meaningful community-building and involvement in radical activism. I walk through school every day, surrounded by a sea of majority white faces as I’ve become used to here in the Midwest, in another elite institution, and I yearn for even a semblance of the community I once was a part of.
I am privileged to be here in so many ways, but still I am fearful of what this future holds for myself, family, friends, and millions across the country and beyond our borders. These past few days I have felt numb and heartbroken that the white supremacy that our nation was founded upon has reared its head so that the president-elect’s supporters now feel empowered to inflict violence upon anyone they see as “other.” I am just as fearful of the long-term effects in policy and the law which will even further systemic oppression over the next four or more years.
I’ve heard that people in the line of work I want to do must be eternal optimists. That’s not me. I don’t believe that the character of our America is ultimately rooted in diversity and inclusion like so many say, because history has shown us since the founding of the nation up until now, that it simply isn’t our reality. While I don’t look towards America’s “inevitable trajectory” of progress, I do look to the continuing fight for liberation which seeks to always imagine the better possibilities and futures we deserve.