Advocating for Antiracist Policies in the Legal Work Environment

Advocating for Antiracist Policies in the Legal Work EnvironmentThis week we welcome back guest writer Christen Morgan to talk about what antiracism means in the legal work environment.

So you want to be an advocate for antiracism in the legal work environment? Follow these steps.

Step 1: Read

Take a moment to ask yourself what antiracism is. If the definition doesn’t immediately jump to mind, don’t feel ashamed. Don’t allow this paused uncertainty to cripple your prospective growth. Instead, open your Google browser and type, “what is antiracism?” When you receive a flood of search results, don’t become overwhelmed. Instead, read. Read definitions from reputable sources. Sources like Ibram X. Kendi renowned author of, “How to be Antiracist,” who, through his works, describes this term as actively fighting against racism as opposed to claiming to be “non-racist.” Read definitions from sources like, Malini Ranganathan, who defines anti-racism as, “taking stock of and eradicating policies that are racist, that have racist outcomes and making sure that ultimately, we’re working towards a much more egalitarian, emancipatory society.”

When you feel like you have a better understanding of this definition, don’t stop there. Resist the urge to simply “call a friend” and ask them what they believe you can do to be antiracist. Recognize that if your friend is a person of color, they may have grown weary from constantly providing explanations of how they would like to be treated equally. Instead continue to educate yourself so that you can see a fuller picture of how this definition applies. Educate yourself through reading books and studies on antiracism. Books such as: “So You Want to Talk About Race,” by Ijeoma Oluo, “Me and White Supremacy,” by Layla F. Saad, or “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria” by Beverly Daniel Tatum. Read until you’re overcome with the determination to take action.

Step 2: Absorb and Reflect

Once you’re done reading, recognize that it is not the only prong needed to obtain meaningful change. Understand that this is simply “consciousness raising,” and if you want to be antiracist, this is not enough. However, before moving forward, take a moment to absorb and reflect. Absorb everything that you have learned and reflect on how your past actions may have fallen short. This step will be uncomfortable, but it is necessary. Don’t let your discomfort stop you before you can truly get started.

Step 3: Take Note of Your Work Environment

Now that you have an understanding of what it means to be antiracist, take note of the work environment that you are trying to change. The legal work environment can be a contradictory conundrum. It is a space that is meant to effectuate justice and, depending on your clientele, civil rights. However, its underlying systems, its organizational structure, and the everyday conversations that take place within its walls are oftentimes lined and even built on the systemic racism that permeates throughout this country. The access to justice that the legal work environment provides, does not absolve it of its wrongdoings. Take a moment to let this sink in. When it does sink in, don’t be ashamed that you may have been oblivious of this façade. Some law firms have recognized that they have not done enough and have started to take steps to be antiracist. Do your part to hold them accountable and propel this change.

You can start by taking note of where your workplace may have fallen short. Who are the individuals at the top? Are they homogenous in race? Recognize that if the majority of people at the top are white, this is not just cultural happenstance. It is the result of racism. Ask yourself what you can do to counter this. How can you use your position of privilege to speak up for people of color who are constantly overlooked? What can you do to ensure that people of color, get their foot in the door through hiring? Is there a diversity committee? Is it active or a dormant tool used as a ploy for recruitment? Note the flaws, then make a plan to advocate for antiracist policies.

Step 4: Make A Plan and Execute It

Once you’ve identified the flaws in your work environment, make a plan to advocate for antiracist policies, then execute it. This step is the heavy lifting. It will require you to speak to department heads and staff within your organization about the issues you have flagged and how to change them. The more prepared that you are during step three, may allow for some success here. Despite this, however, still, expect some hesitation. Expect nods of understanding and approval, but vague commitments to “take this up the chain.” If that happens or when this happens, persist. Continue explaining how the current policies may not be racist on its face, but they allow for racism to persevere throughout your organization. If possible, execute this step in numbers. Join forces with other allies who genuinely want to see antiracist changes in your workplace. The more numbers that advocate for new policies, the more difficult it will become for decision-makers to ignore you. However, keep in mind that decision-makers are not the only ones capable of executing change. Your advocacy is of no use if you stay silent. Therefore, speak up. When someone comments on how eloquent a prospective black hire is, say something. When a partner comments on the hair texture or styling of a black or brown person, inquire about the purpose of these statements. If you are unsure why either of these scenarios is wrong, pause here and repeat steps one and two.

Step 5: Repeat

Finally, repeat steps one through five frequently, zealously, and with genuine love and concern. Recognize that your privilege gives you the power to make actual changes. Use it for good and don’t lose steam in this important fight for equality.


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About Christen Morgan

Christen Morgan graduated magna cum laude from the University of Tampa where she received her B.S. in Criminology. She earned her J.D. from Emory Law School where she competed and served as an executive board member for the Emory Law Moot Court Society. Christen also served as a student representative for LexisNexis and also as a mentor for several 1L students offering them advice and a variety of resources to help them through their law school journey.

Christen previously practiced as a Foreclosure Attorney for a Real Estate law firm but has since then transitioned into a Real Estate Specialist role at a wireless infrastructure company.

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