Daily Inspo She’s a Black lawyer and a civil rights superhero
“There were three newspapers every day. We might not have dinner, but we had the papers.”
Sherrilyn Ifill is smiling as she tells me about a childhood both difficult and enriching. Our conversation takes place over Zoom and spans three time zones, but when she looks up toward the ceiling, I know she is accessing the legendary, nearly photographic memory that has made her one of the preeminent civil rights lawyers of our time.
As president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Ifill is an unrelenting champion with a stellar reputation among civil rights leaders—but as with most superheroes, her name is probably one you don’t know.
A four-star general in the war to protect voting, she deploys legal foot soldiers across the country to ensure you can cast a ballot free from intimidation, misinformation, or unfair rules. She holds multibillion-dollar corporations accountable, demanding that they serve the interests of the Black and Latino communities that have made them rich. She pulls no punches targeting biased laws and leaders in national media. Her sense of justice does not waver; it is her inheritance.
The youngest of 10 children—eight girls and two boys—Ifill was a girl when her mother passed away. Older sisters willingly took on additional responsibility, showered her with love, and kept alive the warmth and memory of their departed mother. One of her big brothers, a rare unionized African American electrician, signed the promissory note for student loans so she could attend Vassar College.
It was her father who ensured the arrival of those three papers. A social worker in Harlem, Lester Ifill “was not at all warm and fuzzy,” according to his daughter, but “he was politically knowledgeable and brilliant and incredibly funny. The place where we met and shared joy was in our discussion about politics. That was our space.”
A childhood spent intellectually sparring with her father honed Ifill’s early skills and ambitions as a litigator. “I wanted to be a civil rights lawyer from the time I was very young,” Ifill explains. Her senior yearbook photo spells out her career goal: “Supreme Court Justice.”
Read the story on Glamour
Say It Louder How systemic racism shaped George Floyd’s life
All were bigger dreams than he was able to achieve in his version of America. While his death was the catalyst for global protests against racial inequality, the nearly eight minutes Floyd spent suffocating under the knee of a White police officer were hardly the first time he faced oppression.
Throughout his lifetime, Floyd’s identity as a Black man exposed him to a gantlet of injustices that derailed, diminished and ultimately destroyed him, according to an extensive review of his life based on hundreds of documents and interviews with more than 150 people, including his siblings, extended family members, friends, colleagues, public officials and scholars.
The picture that emerges is one that underscores how systemic racism has calcified within many of America’s institutions, creating sharply disparate outcomes in housing, education, the economy, law enforcement and health care.
While Floyd’s life span coincided with many advancements for Black Americans — some of them dramatic — his personal path highlights just how much those hard-fought gains remain out of reach for millions like him.
“My mom, she used to always tell us that growing up in America, you already have two strikes,” as a Black man, Floyd’s younger brother Philonise said in an interview. “And you’re going to have to work three times as hard as everybody else, if you want to make it in this world.”
Read the story on Washington Post
Speaking Of… Amy Coney Barrett doesn’t think saying the N-Word proves a workplace is hostile
As Senate confirmation hearings for Donald Trump’s Supreme Court candidate Amy Coney Barrett began on Tuesday, her record on big-ticket issues will come under increased scrutiny as people on both sides of the aisle try to discern exactly what kind of Justice she might be. While the confirmation hearings themselves may be revealing—and soundbites may be looped hundreds of thousands of times on cable news channels and social media over the coming days—Barrett’s time spent as an appellate judge offers plenty to parse through. As the Associated Press reports, Barrett has written about 100 opinions in more than three years serving on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Among these are two cases, one involving voting rights, the other a discrimination suit, that could disproportionately impact Black Americans.
Just last year, Barrett wrote a revealing decision on behalf of a three-judge panel regarding a case about racial discrimination in the workplace, reports the Associated Press. The panel upheld the original ruling, which tossed out a discrimination suit filed by a Black Illinois transportation employee, Terry Smith, who said he was called a racial slur by his supervisor, Lloyd Colbert.
In fact, Barrett reinforced that Smith was to blame for his termination because of his “poor track record.”
“The n-word is an egregious racial epithet,” Barrett wrote in Smith v. Illinois Department of Transportation. “That said, Smith can’t win simply by proving that the word was uttered. He must also demonstrate that Colbert’s use of this word altered the conditions of his employment and created a hostile or abusive working environment.”
Read the story on The Root
Less Of This The court-appointed lawyer who was a sexual predator
In January 2016, attorney Paul Letourneau arranged to meet his newest client one evening at Sea Dog Brewing Co., a local brewpub in southern Maine. She had a drug arrest, a shaky relationship and was struggling to hold onto her nursing license.
Letourneau ordered a beer. They settled into a booth. Suddenly, his phone rang. His daughter was having car trouble, he told her. He asked the woman to wait for him. He’d be back in a second.
As Letourneau walked out, Leah Kerwin watched him with unease. She was out on bail. She wasn’t supposed to be drinking alcohol. And here she was, meeting him alone in a mostly empty bar.
After waiting 10 minutes, Kerwin decided to leave. Just as she reached her car in the parking lot, Letourneau pulled into the spot next to her, she said. He jumped out and strode over — standing so close that she could smell the beer on his breath. Come back inside for another drink, she remembered him asking.
She knew it was the last time she wanted to be alone with her lawyer.
Read the story on Pro Publica
Podcast of the Week Never forget that Jeff Sessions made it harder for judges to rule in favor of immigrants
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