Daily Inspo The Black civil rights lawyer who took the protests to the courtroom and won
In July 1963, Wendell Gunn appeared in the registrar’s office of Florence State College requesting an application from a bewildered secretary.
He was confused, too.
Gunn had seen James Hood and Vivian Malone admitted to University of Alabama the previous month. Autherine Lucy had been admitted in 1956. He thought the matter of Black folks attending white schools had been formally settled.
It had not.Gunn was taken to an office where the college’s president and dean awaited him.
“The dean stared at me with those steely eyes and said, ‘Who sent you here?’”
Gunn received his application with a warning from the president. He could not admit him without a federal court order. His mother phoned civil rights attorney Fred Gray.
“He asked me if I really wanted to go. After saying we couldn't afford [litigation], he said, ‘That's not what I asked you,’” Gunn recalled with a laugh. Gray sued and Gunn enrolled.
The case was one of many for Gray. Throughout his career Gray filed suits that desegregated 105 of the 119 school systems in the state including everything under the control of the State Board of Education, which followed from Lee v. Macon. The students who had gained admission to UA in ‘56 and ‘63? Gray represented them, too.
Read the story on Montgomery Advisor
Speaking Of… A Black judge challenges the Supreme Court to say Black Lives Matter
U.S. District Court Judge Carlton Reeves often weaves the nation’s history of discrimination into his analysis. Reeves, a Black man who writes with trenchant candor about racism in America, was appointed to the Southern District of Mississippi by President Barack Obama in 2010. His Tuesday decision in Jamison v. McClendon, however, is much more than a legal history lesson. It is a fiery protest against the injustices of racist law enforcement wrapped in a scholarly critique of the appalling doctrine that lets lawless cops off the hook. He denounced a legal system that favors unconstitutional policing over Black lives. And then he let the officer off the hook.
The doctrine of qualified immunity, which protects police officers from lawsuits over their behavior on the job, has suddenly received massive scrutiny in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd and the ensuing Black Lives Matter protests. Judges have begun to grapple with the courts’ role in expanding the doctrine and its dehumanizing consequences. Some judges are now even listening to the protests in the streets. A federal appeals court cited Floyd’s killing in a June opinion denying qualified immunity, explaining that the doctrine risks letting cops disrespect “the dignity and worth of black lives.” Reeves has now joined the chorus of judges urging the Supreme Court to acknowledge the “worth of black lives” and its complicity in using “legal jargon” to cover up systemic racism in law enforcement.
The facts in Jamison are depressingly familiar. A white Mississippi officer named Nick McClendon pulled over Clarence Jamison, a Black man driving his new Mercedes convertible. McClendon claimed that Jamison’s temporary tag was “folded up.” (Later, Jamison provided evidence that the tag was never folded.) McClendon ran a background check but found no criminal history. He then asked Jamison if he could search the Mercedes, allegedly (and falsely) accusing Jamison of carrying 10 kilograms of cocaine. Jamison initially refused the search. But after McClendon asked five times, Jamison acquiesced. The officer proceeded to dismantle Jamison’s car for nearly two hours, searching every inch and finding no contraband. In the process, he destroyed portions of the car, inflicting thousands of dollars’ worth of damage. McClendon also deployed a drug-sniffing dog, who found nothing.
Read the story on Slate
More of This Michelle Obama turned the “angry Black woman” trope upside down
Michele L. Norris is the founding director of The Race Card Project.
From the minute Michelle Obama stepped on to a national stage, people tried to paint her as an “angry Black woman” when she dared to use her voice, or her platform, to address hard truths.
I winced every time that happened because she is a friend and because I, too, am a Black woman who runs the risk of being saddled with that trope. We know full well that the angry Black woman label is an attempt to neutralize a preternatural superpower to speak truth to power and tell it is like it is.
Obama’s speech at the Democratic National Convention on Monday night turned that trope upside down and displayed how much she has evolved as a leader who disdains politics but absolutely understands political instincts and strategy. After years in the spotlight, she assumes some will try to portray her as angry, so she used her time and platform to invite the world to understand the source of her concern and ask, in effect: Why aren’t you angry, too?
It was a master class for women who are forced every day to dance on the knife-edge of that stereotype, unsure if they can admit to, or embrace, justifiable anger. Along that edge, every step is perilous.
It is why so many women, especially women of color, have perfected the art of shifting down to a lower gear to convey frustration or disappointment. Screaming or loud talk does not have the same impact as a slow and measured and cadenced statement where each word sinks to a slightly lower octave.
Read the story on Washington Post
Less of This How the pandemic made the bar exam “literal hell” for next gen lawyers
Many lawyers will tell you that taking the bar exam is among the most painful experiences of their lives. The days-long exam requires months of intensive studying, expensive bar-prep classes and can cost thousands of dollars to take.
For hundreds of years, governments have used “barrister’s exams,” often including both a knowledge assessment and a character assessment (involving a lengthy background check and several character references), to approve lawyers into the profession.
The American Bar Association estimates that only 75% of people pass the bar the first time they take it, and the coronavirus pandemic has made this experience even more painful for prospective lawyers.
CNBC Make It spoke with future lawyers, many under the conditions of anonymity due to fears that critiquing the bar would lead to them failing the character portion of the exam, about the challenges they have faced.
“I’m worried because they have threatened to do character investigations on those of us who are making noise,” said one person.
Their experiences paint a picture of disorganization among state and federal bar organizations.
Read the story on CNBC
Say It Louder We should still defund the police
Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor is an assistant professor of African American Studies at Princeton University and the author of “Race for Profit: How Banks and the Real Estate Industry Undermined Black Homeownership.”
This summer’s uprising has forced a reckoning within the United States about the deep imprint of racism on our society. The public lynching of George Floyd pierced the veil of segregation that typically shrouds the realities in which millions of African-Americans live—straining under the mounting weight of Black death. Tens of thousands of African-Americans killed by the rapid spread of covid-19, the taped execution of Ahmaud Arbery by two white men in Georgia, the reports of Breonna Taylor’s brutal killing by Louisville police, and then Floyd’s horrifying murder in Minneapolis brought home for a broader public the police state that exists in Black America.
By June, the persistence and duration of the protests had produced historic changes in white people’s perceptions. A national poll recorded an unprecedented shift in opinion: seventy-one per cent of whites said that they think racism and discrimination are a “big problem” in the United States, and fifty-five per cent said that the anger of the protests was fully justified. In a different poll, sixty per cent expressed support for the Black Lives Matter movement. This sea change in opinion was mirrored by a wave of public gestures of racial reconciliation, as a host of corporate executives acknowledged—if not accepted genuine responsibility for—their roles in sustaining regimes of racial inequality.
Nascar renounced the flying of the Confederate flag at its events. Juneteenth, long an informal day of celebrations among some African-Americans, was suddenly institutionalized as a paid holiday. Former President George W. Bush condemned “systemic racism.” At one level, the rapid, reflexive default to offering symbolic recognition of racism was quite typical. No other country engages in the cavernous nothingness of the fake apology as frequently as the United States. In the case of Black Americans, it is most recognizable in the form of big-sounding civil-rights legislation that is eventually, as the historian Leon Litwack has written, “compromised, deferred and undone.”
It is clearly a craven gesture when multibillion-dollar corporations claim that “Black lives matter,” even as they refuse their Black workers hazard pay, paid time off, or a living wage. Nevertheless, these élite searches for absolution from the sin of “systemic racism” have reaffirmed that racism is not only about burning crosses and the N-word: it is also present in the housing market, in institutions of higher education, in the job market, and most certainly in policing and the criminal-justice system. In this moment, when both the coronavirus pandemic and the uprising are laying bare structural flaws in U.S. society, there has been a renewed discussion of structural remedies. This is why “defund the police”—a demand that only a marginal handful dared to put forward just months ago—has become a central slogan of the reëmergent B.L.M. movement.
Read the story on The New Yorker
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