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In Response to ‘Systemic Racism is Long Gone’ Letter to the Editor

The assertion by Tom Stahl in his letter in the September issue of Bar News that there is no systemic racism in our society today is wrong because his definition of systemic racism is wrong. Mr. Stahl defines systemic racism as that which occurs “throughout the entire society.” The correct definition of systemic racism is that which occurs within a system that affects a significant portion of society, not necessarily our entire society. I will give just a few examples of this.  

A few years ago, the Washington Supreme Court declared the Washington death penalty unconstitutional because it was being applied in a manner that was racist. That did not affect the application of the death penalty in the legal systems in the other 49 states where systemic racism may still exist in how prosecutors apply the death penalty. As recently as a few years ago, medical students at the University of Washington medical school were taught a system of evaluating kidney disease that was racist because it assumed Black patients had a different level of kidney function than white patients. This resulted in kidney disease being diagnosed in Black patients at a lower, inaccurate rate. This issue was reported in the UW alumni magazine, Columns.11 https://magazine.washington.edu/feature/uw-doctors-students-tackle-the-other-pandemic-racism/. While the teaching of this racist system of evaluating patients may have been corrected at the UW medical school,22 https://kidney360.asnjournals.org/content/3/3/557. it did not affect what happens at all other medical schools or hospitals where the racist system of evaluating patients for kidney disease may still exist. 

The death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis Police Department and the death of Manuel Ellis at the hands of the Tacoma Police Department demonstrate that those two city-based systems of law enforcement acted in a racist manner. And while that issue may have been corrected in Minneapolis, it has not yet been corrected in Tacoma and has not affected all other police departments across the country. 

Mr. Stahl cited a number of government agencies and court cases that have nullified systemic racism in some cases. But they have not eliminated it in all cases. Mr. Stahl states that “Income disparities alone do not support the argument for systemic racism.” On that point Mr. Stahl is correct. There is much more to the existence of systemic racism than just income disparities, and the few examples in this letter confirm that. 

Just like Mr. Stahl, I am a white American. I have practiced law in Seattle for almost 40 years and I continue to do so. I will continue to point out systemic racism where it exists, continue to learn about it as others point it out to me, and continue to take steps to eliminate it. 

Neil Sussman 
Seattle 


Kudos to Mr. Stahl for his September letter in Bar News. It is long past time to call out the racist ranters who seem to enjoy having predicated their lives on self-pity, alleged victimhood, and the dependence it inherently engenders. Any adult who persists in that approach has already failed and can only continue to fail in the race of life. Systemic racism simply no longer exists in the United States. While there may be pockets or incidents of isolated racism in various sections of the country, it bodes ill for the United States if we now try to base our political and social policies on that factor alone. 

It is time to move on and deal with the progressive poison that seems to have infected all three branches of our state government and seeks to inculcate its values in every facet of our respective communities. I for one am fully prepared to jettison equity, diversity, gender, sexual orientation, and even race in favor of common sense, life experience, and most importantly as an attorney, empirical evidence. 

For those whose sole objective is virtue signaling and the good feelings it engenders in them, I would suggest a career in social work. In no small measure your legal training appears to have been wasted.

Larry Zeigler
Kennewick


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.

NOTES

1. https://magazine.washington.edu/feature/uw-doctors-students-tackle-the-other-pandemic-racism/

2. https://kidney360.asnjournals.org/content/3/3/557

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