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Response to ‘Regarding Race and Directories’
I write in direct response to [Inez] Petersen of Enumclaw [“Inbox,” April/May Bar News]. She deeply fails in her analysis and judgments regarding Terra Nevitt’s article [“Black History Month: What is Our Pathway Forward?” February 2022 Bar News] and the 2022 Judges of Color Directory. She has answered for herself every one of the rhetorical questions set out in her letter. However, I want Ms. Petersen to know and hopefully understand and appreciate that many, many other thoughtful, reasoned answers exist.
I particularly want Ms. Petersen and others to know and understand that reading a few books and authors, [Robin] DiAngelo and [Ibram X.] Kendi included, does not qualify one as well-read on racism or other social structures in our profession and in our great America. Ms. Petersen clearly does not understand author Kendi when she interprets his writing as meaning that “white [people] are unilaterally oppressors and non-white [people] are the oppressed.” In kindness, I suggest that Ms. Petersen and others working to create a better profession, country, and world read the book, The End of Bias: A Beginning: The Science and Practice of Overcoming Unconscious Bias by Jessica Nordell. Anyone who reads (and understands) Nordell’s book would be able to join in the journey toward diversity, equity, and inclusion.
I disagree that a Judges of Color Directory is racist. I do agree that society needs the best judges serving on every level of the court.
Ms. Petersen’s belief that a Judges of Color Directory “by its existence infers that white judges cannot be fair minded and race-blind when administering court proceedings” is plain wrong. Judges of color may have many honorable and grounded reasons to be listed in such a directory and some may not actually want to be listed. Regardless, such a directory serves as a community resource, provides a public service, gives personal and public identification of such judges, can be a matter of honor and pride, provides increased access to justice, can further diversify the bench, and, indeed, is in proper alignment with the general public, the community which each of us serves as lawyers or judges. I list just a few good reasons that tax dollars or bar dollars should be used for such a publication.
In her ultimate rhetorical question and her answer to it, Ms. Petersen reveals her lack of a basic, core understanding of current society, systems, institutions, and, perhaps, even the law. Ms. Petersen’s suggestion that the 2022 Judges of Color Directory “be open to participation by all the judges” and that otherwise such a directory “violates laws that forbid discrimination” belies a lawyerly, well-reasoned opinion. Ms. Petersen would benefit herself most by rethinking her claims, questions, and answers. She may also want to take greater care with her language in doing so.
Sharon Sakamoto, Shoreline
Consider the Evidence
[In the] March 2022 issue of Bar News, Tom Stahl of Ellensburg responds to Terra Nevitt’s column on Black History Month. He states that Nevitt “neglects to define ‘systemic racism’ or prove that it exists.” Systemic racism is described in The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein. He incontrovertibly proves that it was de jure segregation—the laws and policy decisions passed by local, state, and federal governments—that actually promoted the discriminatory patterns, also pursued by communities, that continue to this day. One proof of systemic racism documented by Rothstein is the disparity in wealth between Black and white families that continues to this day.
On June 4, 2020, The Washington Post reported that the Black-white economic divide is as wide as it was in 1968. In 1968, a typical middle-class Black household had $6,674 in wealth compared with $70,786 for the typical middle-class white household, according to data from the historical Survey of Consumer Finances that has been adjusted for inflation. In 2016, the typical middle-class Black household had $13,024 in wealth versus $149,703 for the median white household, an even larger gap in percentage terms. [More information available at www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/06/04/economic-divide-black-households/.]
Paul Majkut, Portland, OR
Enough Is Enough
The April/May summary of the Board Governors meeting [“On Board,” April/May Bar News] states that: “[t]he Board has been considering how unreliable and delayed service by the United States Postal System might impact legal processes,” and, in particular, the summary refers to the Service of Process rule. The action taken by the Board was to ask the WSBA Court Rules Committee to take up the issue.
After the appointment of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, the United States Postal Service went from reliable to unreliable. This appointment came at the same time as the 2020 election cycle and clear interest in the American public to vote by mail-in ballot because of the pandemic. What issue? Rather than try to work around it, why isn’t this and other bar associations suing DeJoy as the postmaster general for obvious sabotage? It is time to say it like it is. There is no doubt the now unreliable service is impacting legal processes, and now people are feeling they have to use a third-party carrier. Who bears the extra cost? The average American does one way or the other.
Letters to the editor published in Bar News must respond to content presented in the magazine and also comply with Washington General Rule 12.2 and Keller v. State Bar of California, 496 U.S. 1 (1990).* Bar News may limit the number of letters published based on available space in a particular issue and, if many letters are received in response to a specific piece in the magazine, may select letters that provide differing viewpoints to publish. Bar News does not publish anonymous letters or more than one letter from the same contributor per issue. All letters are subject to editing for length, clarity, civility, and grammatical accuracy.
*GR 12.2(c) states that the WSBA is not authorized to “(1) Take positions on issues concerning the politics or social positions of foreign nations; (2) Take positions on political or social issues which do not relate to or affect the practice of law or the administration of justice; or (3) Support or oppose, in an election, candidates for public office.” In Keller v. State Bar of California, the Court ruled that a bar association may not use mandatory member fees to support political or ideological activities that are not reasonably related to the regulation of the legal profession or improving the quality of legal services.