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From the CEO: Where We Find Ourselves
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Permit me a personal word this Friday afternoon about what is happening in our beloved country.

The images we have seen over the past 10 days have been horrific. It is appalling to watch acts of violence being committed, whether by private individuals or by the officials whom we charge to serve and protect us. It almost is more than one can bear. One is tempted to simply turn away, to say that’s not us, that’s not who we are. Can’t we just arrest and punish the wrongdoers, and move on?

Facts, however, are stubborn things. So are images. How do we reconcile the image of Amy Cooper in Central Park, taken very nearly at the same time as the image of George Floyd on the pavement in Minneapolis?

And how do we reconcile the past? Before George Floyd there was Breonna Taylor. And Ahmaud Arbery. And Eric Garner. And Philando Castile. And Sean Reed. And Botham Jean (killed by an off-duty police officer in his own apartment), and Trayvon Martin, Ezell Ford, Stephon Clark, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown … and so it goes.

Go back a little further to James Chaney, and Medgar Evers, and Emmit Till, and Rev. George Lee. To Selma, and to Bull Connor. To Greenwood, Oklahoma. In Detroit, go back to STRESS, and 1967, and Malice Green, and a little further back to Dr. Ossian Sweet. Are we really surprised, then, when Sen. Kamala Harris yesterday said about our collective American history, “Black lives have not been taken seriously as being fully human and deserving of dignity.” Didn’t President Kennedy raise the same inconvenient truth in 1963, when asking his fellow white Americans, “If an American, because his skin is dark, cannot enjoy the full and free life which all of us want, then who among us would be content to have the color of his skin changed and stand in his place? Who among us would then be content with the counsels of patience and delay?”

I am reminded this week that as lawyers, we take an oath – an oath to support the Constitution. What is enshrined in the Constitution? The answer is carved in stone above the entrance to the Supreme Court: Equal Justice Under Law. What is an oath? In A Man for All Seasons, St. Thomas More says, “What is an oath then, but what words we say to God?”

I suggest that if the oath is real, we lawyers have made a solemn promise to confront unequal justice – a promise to our communities, to one another, to those who are calling out injustice and to those victimized by it. To fulfill our oath, we must act, bringing open minds and open hearts, being neither discouraged or deterred. As people of moral conscience, we must stand up and say, “no more.” I have a feeling the journey begins with each of us looking inward. I firmly believe that the people of our firm are people of goodwill, as are most human beings. Yet we can, we must, fully challenge ourselves to examine and honestly reveal the biases and racial prejudices we all carry, unconscious and otherwise. We must listen, truly listen, and hear our colleagues who have experienced indignities that many of us, through the grace of God and often because of the color of our skin, have not. And we white Americans must learn a more complete history, a difficult history, as uncomfortable as that history may be. If facts are stubborn things, then truth is the foundation of reconciliation. Both in our country and in our firm.

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “make injustice visible.” I suspect that is the place to start. Our faith traditions teach us the same, that we all are brothers and sisters, and we must love one another.

Let us firmly resolve to do better, to act on that commitment, to not be deflected from it, and to hold ourselves accountable for its achievement.

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