Monday, January 15, 2007

A few thoughts on MLK day.

My hours are filled, for the most part, with the words of dead, white men. As a 1st year law student I read decision after decisions from men mostly like Justice Cardozo tying to understand the logic behind our law, of the arguments that men have long since made and either won or lost, and why the law is what it is. Rarely do I get the opportunity to read a woman’s voice, or a minority voice in these cases. So far, I only remember one opinion by a woman, and this was Justice O’Connor concurrence in Lawrence v Texas (as a concurrence, it's only an opinion and a way to look at a argument and not law). This isn’t a pedagogy by design where our teachers are preventing us from learning from minorities, but it is the simple fact that the 1st year of law school is spent learning the foundation of law, not the modern nuisances that have developed, and that this foundation of law was poured by men, white men to be specific, and a minority voice was not present in the founding years of this nation, at least not on the bench.

The demographics are, however, changing and can be seen in my 1L class. American law, for most of her history, has been dominated by a single caste of people; the white sons of the upper middle and wealthy classes. Women and minorities were not present in most of our law schools and just started to walk the halls of the schools only 50 years ago. My advisor, my property law professor, invited us to breakfast one day so he could meet his advisees. He looked at the group before him and noted that there were more women than men, and that more than half of the group came from a minority background. He noted how different we looked, as a group, than he and his fellow law students had looked when he was in his studies. His classmates were all white and all male except for one lone woman; who was also black. All of his classmates were young, fresh from undergrad schools and ready to be molded in the vein of lawyers of old. Our class was marked by people who had already had careers and were coming back to school with opinions of law already formed and set.

This demographic change will have a huge impact on society because it will have a huge impact on law. There are those who believe that lawyers are parasites, sucking money from the common good, but those views held by those that don’t appreciate the role that lawyers play in American life or have never needed the services of a lawyer. We are a nation of laws. More so the Christianity, the legal tradition is our collective religion and lawyers are the priests of this society. The explosion of minorities in law means that the fundamental underpinnings of society will be written and adjudicated through eyes and ears that have seen and heard things that the forefathers of law never knew or dreamt of. Minorities will shape and change the law in a way that we are only beginning to realize.

Dr. King’s dream has been a long time coming. We are still years away from a true realization of equality. But, I believe, that this new generation of lawyers will do more to advance Dr. King’s vision than any before. It’s exciting to be a part of this generation, to be able to participate in the changes that we will bring, and to recast a truly equal society.

No comments: