In order to further open dialogue about systemic racism and implicit bias, DiveIn and Kline’s Student Bar Association have created an anti-racism course for the entire Kline community, including students, staff, and faculty. Beginning September 18 and ending during the spring term, the course will include biweekly meetings and give participants the opportunity to discuss short readings on issues ranging from racism in the classroom and workplace to how to be a better ally.
Kline’s Director of Diversity, Inclusion, and Student Belonging Danielle Boardley (DB) and the Secretary of the Student Bar Association 2L Katherine Bell (KB), who both created the course, recently answered a few questions about what the course entails and why everyone in the Kline community should participate.
What can participants expect from the course?
KB: This isn't a lecture or a seminar. There isn't going to be someone in the front of the room telling you what to think or what to do. While there will be members who have more experience with certain topics, this is a community initiative where everyone walks in the door on equal footing to connect and talk and learn from each other.
The variety of topics span everything from how to be an ally through microinterventions when microaggressions occur to big systemic issues, like levels of homelessness and hair discrimination in the workplace. How were these topics chosen? What is the intention behind the variety?
KB: The material was initially resourced from the ABA's 21-day Racial Equity Habit Building Challenge. From there, SBA worked closely with DiveIn to curate these topics. The variety is very intentional—not only does it allow us to discuss how these issues apply to different facets of life, but it also allows us to practice recognizing these issues in a variety of situations. This will hopefully help us build a habit we can take with us outside of the classroom and apply to new situations we encounter.
I have also noticed a trend within my own communities of discussing racism as though it exists in a bubble—as though it is a singular intentional act, done by Racists ™ in other places. But that view isn't quite true, and I hope these discussions can help to remove that illusion.
The material for each session is very impactful but very short. Assuming that this is to prevent time constraints for participants, how do you envision participants engaging with the material and supplementary material? What’s the ideal outcome in terms of in-class participation and engagement after the course?
KB: I view the material as offering a base for the real engagement, which is the discussions. The reading is important, but the connection and discussion with our community is the goal. Ideally, through practicing this type of engagement repeatedly and with a wide variety of topics, we can form a habit and begin approaching other parts of our lives in this way.
Why is it important for future attorneys to engage with these issues?
DB: The slowing down that most of us have experienced during the pandemic has made it very clear that if we don’t purposefully take an introspective survey of our personal, communal and societal practices and policies, we are destined to continue the vicious cycle of injustice.
Racial and cultural competency are issues of professional responsibility. A lack of personal awareness as it relates to addressing the significance of race and culture can create substantial challenges in communication-based careers.
If legal professionals are not mindful of the impact of race and culture, they chance the possibility of misconstruing their client’s stories, objectives and goals, and potentially causing their clients to feel alienated.
Why is important to engage with these issues in this space (as opposed to individually on in classes)?
DB: It is equally important for us to engage with these issues individually, in classes, in our friend groups, with our families and as a collective law school community. The goal of this initiative is to create an additional opportunity for discussion as we continually work toward cultivating an anti-racist, culturally-aware environment.
Why should faculty and staff participate?
DB: If we have expectations of our students, we must engage in the process, too. The only way any of us will be successful in this effort is by working together, being open to different perspectives, disagreeing respectfully, and actively becoming the change we want to see in the world. One way to demonstrate our desire for change is to be an active participant in this initiative.
For course readings and more details on the class, go to the Student Bar Association's BlackBoard page (found within Law School Programming on BlackBoard).
Photo Credit: Volodymyr Hryshchenko