Racial Equity: The Conversation Continues
Recently, millions of people across our communities have come together in an historic movement that calls for fundamental change addressing systemic racism.
In “On Racial Equity: 26 Voices” (Wisconsin Lawyer, July/August 2020), we asked 26 State Bar members from various backgrounds what this moment in American racial, social, and legal justice reform means to them.
We know there are more voices to be heard. What does this moment in history mean to you? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. – Editors
Where Are the Jewish Voices? The voices featured in this article are powerful, true, hopeful, and sobering. But I’m looking for a Jewish voice and none is provided. Why is that? Jews have so much to share and contribute that our omission is disappointing. We make up numbers in the State Bar far in excess of our numbers in the general population. We have generously populated the ranks of public defender practice since such offices were created. Jewish attorneys have spearheaded progressive developments in all areas of the law for the last 100 years. We are an ancient culture steeped in disputation, argument, learning and we know all too well the disadvantages and burning pain of being beaten down.
Jewish refugees were barred from entering the United States during WWII and sent back to Europe to be gassed and burned. Not coincidentally, my practice focuses largely on representing undocumented immigrants from Latin America. Jewish communities in the United States are regularly threatened. Recently, 11 of us were murdered in Pittsburgh during worship. Another vibrant Jewish life was taken in Poway, Calif., outside San Diego, during worship. It happened again on the streets of Jersey City, N.J., in December of last year, and in Monsey, N.Y., during Chanukah 2019.
Jewish Americans have fought, bled, and died for the civil rights movement in America. Dr. King was a great friend of the Jewish people and admirer of the State of Israel. We have dear and wonderful friends in the bar, on the bench, and throughout all communities of color. You know who you are.
Jews have fought and died in enormous numbers for freedom from oppression, hate, and marginalization. Like Black, Latino, Tribal, Asian and all other dispossessed and hunted peoples, we have been there. Anti-Semitism is one of the great scourges of humanity. We lock hands, arms, and hearts with our struggling brothers and sisters throughout Milwaukee, across Wisconsin, and in the United States as we all work hard to break down stereotypes, prejudices, hate, and institutionalized oppression.
Winkler Law Firm, Milwaukee
Condemn Rising Censoriousness: Free speech is in a culture war. How encouraging it was to see “A Letter on Justice and Open Debate” published online in July by Harper’s magazine. Signed by numerous writers, professors, and activists (many notable names), the letter condemns the rise of censoriousness we see growing out of the racial and social justice movement in our country.
The letter states “… it is now all too common to hear calls for swift and severe retribution in response to perceived transgressions of speech and thought.” It reminds us, “The way to defeat bad ideas is by exposure, argument, and persuasion, not by trying to silence or wish them away.”
Who could object to that? Many activists swiftly castigated the letter with a proud disavowal of liberal values in favor of illiberal tactics (for example, de-platforming speakers) to advance their group identity goals.
This bar association must be on the side of fostering free speech. It cannot be the pliant disseminator of received opinions on such important matters.
Connelly Legal Services, Westby
Assumptions Perpetuate Bias: I think “Check Assumptions at the Door” (Wisconsin Lawyer, Final Thought column, July/August 2020) is a great article filled with great reminders! This is also something we must always remember to practice in pro bono legal clinics where we often think we know which people are the clients, the lawyers, and the law students. But these are just assumptions based on age, race, gender, and even the clothes someone is wearing.
Marquette University Law School, Milwaukee
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