Monday, October 02, 2006

Black, White, and Red-Handed (Get Your Story Straight Edition)

In the post below, I highlighted a conflict between two versions of a racial controversy. An invitation to a "Cajun Shrimp Boil" clearly seemed to tell white people that they were not welcome. An anonymous comment on this blog took me to task for my "patently false" representations. Initially, I only linked to the invitation and allowed people to make up their own minds. I also noted that an angry phone caller to another person involved in the story defended the racially restrictive invitation on the grounds that minorities would not be able to speak freely at an integrated event.

The plot thickens with a letter to the editor in the September 25, 2006 Minnesota Lawyer:

As lawyers with some of the large firms that have formed Twin Cities Diversity in Practice, we believe recent media coverage critical of the organization has been unfair. We do not speak for the organization or for our law firms, but only as individuals who are deeply committed to the goal of increasing the diversity of the Twin Cities bar.

We personally support the organization’s mission to attract and retain attorneys of color in the Twin Cities. For that we do not apologize. We think it’s clear that fostering more diversity in our community is critical to remaining competitive and credible in the global marketplace. With that single mission, of course some of the organization’s activities are directed specifically and exclusively at attorneys of color. How could it be otherwise? We believe that an organization such as Diversity in Practice is critical to improving opportunities for attorneys of color.

One of the best tools for creating those opportunities are networking events aimed at fostering the community of diverse lawyers already here. The shrimp boil social event referred to in recent stories brought together more than 150 lawyers, judges and law students of color and was a great success in fostering community. It was no more “discriminatory” than a special event sponsored by a sports team for its season ticket holders, a university for its alumni or a social club for singles.

Let’s not lose sight of the fact that most of the lawyers in the Twin Cities’ largest law firms and largest law departments are themselves majority lawyers. We believe we are not alone among our colleagues in believing that our long-term interest is served by fostering diverse communities, generally all together, but sometimes focused on attorneys who share common backgrounds and experiences. In fact, this particular event has already enhanced dialogue between majority and minority legal colleagues to everyone’s mutual benefit.

Jennifer C. Debrow
Charlie Ferrell
Joel H. Green
B. Todd Jones
Thomas C. Kayser
Philip A. Pfaffly
John A. Satorius

Editors Note:The signers of this letter are responding individually and not as representatives of Twin Cities Diversity in Practice or their member firms.

Me: There is so much here. Anyone want to take a shot in my comment section below?


Blogger Captain Capitalism said...


"It's alright for us to discriminate because we're minorities. But in the meantime, all you white lawyers can't do this because you're not special, nanny nanny boo boo 123noquits!"

Is that about right?

October 03, 2006 8:16 AM  
Blogger Aaron B. Solem said...

Maybe it's just me, but would I be wrong to suggest that there is an intrinsic difference between being a member of a certain race vs. being a ticket holder, alumni, or single? Should the roles be reversed and it was a "whites only" Shrimp Boil, would these lawyers be intellectually mollified by the "season ticket" rationale?

October 05, 2006 11:17 AM  
Blogger Aaron B. Solem said...

One more thing:

If it is like a season ticket, alumni, or a singles only event then:

A) What is the waiting list like for tickets?
B) What are the median GPA/LSAT scores I need to be admitted and the requirements for graduation?
C) Does this mean if I break-up with my girlfriend I get to go to a Shrimp Boil?

October 05, 2006 11:22 AM  
Blogger Mahan said...

What interests me, if I may return to the topic of the invitation for a moment, is the fact that it reads, and I quote:

"This event is for minority attorneys, minority summer associates and minority law students.

No other guests please."

Now, if your anonymous commenter was correct, and there were white guests attending this shrimp boil, then what was the point of this invitation? If it's aimed solely to allow minorities an environment where they can speak freely in the company of other miorities, why were the white guests invited there at all? That seems to me to defeat the purpose of having, as the signers of that letter put it, "some of the organization’s activities...directed specifically and exclusively at attorneys of color."

The organizers of this event cannot have it both ways. Either the invitation was for minorities or it was not. If it was for minorities only, then they should admit as much and take their lumps for it (what lumps they will take; personally, I don't see the Star-Tribune getting too hot and bothered about this). If it wasn't, then they should admit they screwed up the invitation and deal with the consequences, instead of this heavy-handed attempt at damage control after the fact.

October 05, 2006 8:52 PM  

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