Monday, October 02, 2006

Ragin', Cajun, and Controversial

In this post, I talked about a controversy surrounding a law firm that wanted to join a minority recruiting consortium, Twin Cities Diversity in Practice (TCDIP). I did a follow-up on the controversy, including objections to an event co-sponsored by TCDIP that was billed as only for "attorneys of color."

I received the following comment on my blog. I have delayed posting it, trying to get the anonymous commenter to come forward. Here is the first paragraph:

Mr. Swanson,
Since you have identified yourself as an African-American attorney in the Star Tribune article, it is interesting that you did not attend the "controversial" cajun shrimp boil. It is pretty obvious that you did not, because if you did, then you would have seen white people at the event. Believe it or not, they [sic] were white guests. Therefore, your representations about white people not being allowed at this event are patently false. The "no other guests" provision was actually intended to discourage people from bringing non-attorney spouses and guests because this was a targeted networking event.

* * *

Me: The point is not whether white people attended or not. The fact is that they were not invited. A person involved in this story received an angry phone call from Ms. W., who is involved in one of the sponsoring organizations of the shrimp boil. Ms. W. explained that it was appropriate to limit the invitation to minority attorneys, because that was the only environment in which they could speak freely. Apparently Ms. W. did not get the talking points down before she made her call.

On the issue of whether I indentified myself as an African-American attorney, I did not. The Star Tribune did that just by looking. I try to keep myself out of the story as much as possible. Sometimes I will share an anecdote that helps the understanding of one of my posts, but that's it. In this particular instance, I did not even comment on the restricted guest list of the shrimp boil. All I did was to link to the invitation and let people read it for themselves.

At the very least, the invitation was poorly drafted so as to leave the impression that whites were not welcome. If the hosts did not intend to be racially exclusive, they should be embarrassed that they gave the impression to so many people who read it. But read the relevant portions again and decide for yourself:

This event is for minority attorneys, minority summer associates and minority law students.
No other guests, please.
Thanks in advance for helping us focus this event on networking with our peers.

Why say "minority" so many times, if the idea was to keep non-attorney spouses away?

More to follow from the anonymous comment....


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