We need to talk.
The events of this past summer were an awful reminder that racism, religious intolerance, and hatred are alive and well in our society. After decades of progress, much through legislation, it was easy to think that our nation was addressing “the issue.”
But the heart and mind can’t be legislated. Lawyers know better than anyone that laws alone cannot dictate human thought and behavior.
Every corner of society must engage in the conversation of how we create a culture of valuing all of us. Period.
We cannot stay silent when any one or group of us is demeaned, ostracized, or attacked. But we must also promote a positive agenda that will ensure that everyone is welcomed as full and equal members and participants in our communities.
For the State Bar of Wisconsin, this means that we must be more intentional and deliberate in our diversity and inclusion efforts. We need to continue to broaden out who we ask to get involved and engaged in the work of the State Bar and ensure our efforts not only invite everyone to the table, but include them as full participants in the work of the organization.
Our communities, and the legal profession along with it, are becoming more diverse. We need to embrace possibilities and value a more inclusive culture. It must inform and help shape everything we do. One only need attend admission ceremonies each year to see and appreciate what is an ever-changing face of the legal profession. As an organization, the State Bar must and is embracing the possibilities and value of being an inclusive bar.
I state this with great respect for the efforts and activities of the State Bar’s Diversity and Inclusion Oversight Committee and to my colleagues who work directly with them – it is not enough for our organization to relegate the championing of these efforts to a single committee or to a select group of staff. Diversity and inclusion must permeate everything we do as an organization, including informing our hiring and retention practices; the CLE programming we do and the speakers who present it; our leadership recruitment and development efforts; our conference programming; section activities and outreach; and the authors and images we present in our publications and communications. We must deliberately and intentionally work to open doors of opportunity within the organization for new attorneys and attorneys of diverse backgrounds and experiences. If you are of a diverse background and you’re on the fence about how to get involved in the organization, one door of opportunity, for example, is running for a State Bar office or the Board of Governors in the 2018 election.
Every corner of society
must engage in the
conversation of how
we create a culture of
valuing all of us.
This needs to be our commitment to ourselves and to the broader communities we serve.
In the coming months, the State Bar will take several steps to strengthen our efforts, including bringing back the annual diversity counsel conference, furthering the work of the disparate incarceration initiative, continuing to grow the diversity clerkship program, and regularly evaluating the inclusive nature of all activities, programs, and services.
Finally, each of us, as individuals and as a legal community, must speak out when anyone, regardless of who they are, are demeaned, discriminated against, attacked. Hatred and bigotry must be called out and wiped from the fabric of our society.
Let’s keep talking. There is much to be done.