Jennifer Rosato Perea
Dean, DePaul University College of Law
“I am not good enough.” “I don’t belong here.” “I disappoint everyone—maybe I should do something else.” “I feel so alone. No one really understands me.” “I have no idea what I am doing.” “I’m tired of having to teach others about race.” “I just got into law school/got this job/received this appointment because they needed a person of color.”
These are the kinds of thoughts that race through the minds of diverse lawyers, law students, faculty members, and deans every day. These are the thoughts that distract, exhaust, and undermine us and our success.
Since I entered the profession over 30 years ago, we have developed words and concepts that allow us to name our experiences: presumed incompetence, imposter syndrome, implicit bias, intersectionality, stereotype threat, and structural racism. Yet the institutions have moved very little during this time, and the disparities have only widened: in wealth, education, health, and criminal justice. The pandemic has simply laid bare these existing structural inequities and many more.
And Generation Z has questioned the adaptations that us Baby Boomers have made to these structural inequities, including tolerating microaggressions and assimilating rather than living authentically. They are also (rightfully so) intolerant of institutions – including the legal profession and law schools – who “talk the talk” but do not “walk the walk” of antiracism fast enough. At the same time, this generation experiences greater stress, anxiety and depression than any other generation – which is only exacerbated for students of color by the trauma of incidents like the murder of George Floyd and experiencing other instances of violence and discrimination on a regular basis.
While we fight systemic racism and implicit bias, we also need to take care of ourselves so we can continue to advocate for change while also being authentic and whole. I have seen too many of my peers of color (especially in leadership positions) burn out too quickly from having to navigate these personal and systemic stresses. Individually, we need to develop a mindfulness routine – whether it be meditation, exercise, gratitude practice, or something else that keeps you present, focused, and calm. And we need to get professional help when we need it, encourage others to seek help, and build mental health support services in our organizations, to help reduce the stigma of mental health treatment that pervades the legal profession.
If you enjoyed this blog post, please attend the May 14th Mindful DEI seminar presented by the Chicago Bar Association and IILP. Dean Rosato Perea and other esteemed speakers will address Mindful Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in these stressful times. For more information and/or to register, click here