Where We Stand: Real change. Now.

The Institute for Inclusion in the Legal Profession (“IILP”) stands with all those who seek justice for George Floyd and others like him whose lives have been lost to systemic and personal racism and bigotry. We stand with the countless people, many nameless and faceless, who endure inequality and injustice by virtue of being Black in America. And we stand with those who demand due process, pursue equal justice, and protect human rights and dignity.

In the last week, we have suffered pain, fear, anger, and heartache of immeasurable magnitude.  From the pandemic, with countless lost lives and livelihoods, to the current unrest arising from witnessing the murder of a Black man at the hands a police officer while other officers idly stand by, the killing of a Black jogger who will never return from his run, and the death of a Black woman who was at home, in her own bed – and the incessant fear and worry about who’s next – to the awakening by many who are, perhaps for the first time, finding themselves inescapably confronted with the frustration, invisibility, and injustice that are a daily part of the normal lives of Black Americans, we are a people in pain.

As members of a profession uniquely positioned to advance equal justice for all. It is unconscionable to us – and it should be unconscionable to all lawyers – that racism and its accompanying inequities are permitted to continue to plague our country as virulently as COVID-19. The pandemic forced us to see race-based social and health inequities. Ahmaud Arbery’s execution reminded us – again – of the dangers of jogging while Black. Amy Cooper’s false police report against a Black man who was bird-watching is a case study for White privilege. And George Floyd’s murder vividly illustrated that these are not rare, isolated incidents but part of a systemic pattern of insidious, pervasive, and life-choking racism.

Having seen, none of us can un-see. It is incumbent upon the legal profession to work to stop such tragedies from happening again. The 14th Amendment guarantees due process and equal protection under law; it is not only the duty of the legal profession to fulfill that promise and dismantle the systemic racism that undermines it, it is a moral imperative. So long as equal justice under the law remains aspirational. So long as racism is so normalized that some can even deny its existence, while others quietly endure it, and still others choose to either blame others or the victims. So long as these things are true, we are eroding the very core principles of our professional responsibility.

There is no excuse for any of us to continue wearing blinders about racism. It is a societal problem that is also endemic to our profession. The time has now come to talk openly about it. Not in theory or in the abstract. In public. In our personal experiences. In reality. And then, act upon it. IILP launched #TalkIntoAction two years ago as part of an effort to achieve this openness. Because any of us who are Black, any of our Black family members, friends, or colleagues could have been George Floyd or Ahmaud Arbery or Christian Cooper or Breonna Taylor. It is time to put #TalkIntoAction so that we can learn from it and find ways to prevent it ever happening again.