THE LEGAL PROFESSION is the least diverse of all white collar professions. MCCA’s core mission is to change that. Growing up in the deep South, I attended a segregated school system until junior high school. If you look at that in terms of years, it was not that long ago. Here are a few other things that have been the norm at some point or another during my lifetime:
- Cigarette ads appeared routinely on television, in print and in movie trailers. People thought nothing of smoking around babies and there were “smoking sections” in restaurants, theatres and incredibly enough, on airplanes; despite the fact that the second-hand smoke rarely knew that it was supposed to stay in those sections.
- Seat belts were essentially an afterthought and most drivers considered it an insult to their driving skill if a passenger buckled up upon entering the vehicle.
- People commonly tossed their trash onto highways without a second thought.
- Foods contained saturated fats; soft drinks and chewing gum were pure sugar and kale was that throwaway greenery lining the outer edges of salad bars to keep the ice in place.
- Home treadmills made for expensive coat racks. My how times have changed. As a society we are far more safety, health and environmentally aware.
But there have been changes in other areas:
- At one time, bullying in schools was considered a right of passage.
- The use of epithets to describe blacks, gays, Latinos, Asians and Native Americans was not only common, but anyone who spoke up against the practice was generally viewed as a troublemaker.
- In a majority of states, there were laws on the books prohibiting interracial marriage and the notion of same sex marriage was beyond the realm of possibility.
- In high school, I played a football game against the Robert E. Lee High School Rebels whose helmets, towels and uniforms bore the Confederate battle flag.
There is, I believe, a certain inevitability in the progress of society. The recent tragic terrorist murders of nine churchgoers in Charleston, S.C., in June reminds us that unfortunately change sometimes comes at a terrible cost. But in the midst of that tragedy, we move ever so slightly toward a society that values the principles of e pluribus unum, “Out of Many, One.” Even though the legal profession remains the least diverse of all white collar professions, I remain optimistic that even our profession will come to realize the value of inclusiveness. It is, I believe, inevitable.
Joseph K. West
President & CEO