Law Student Feels Oppressed By Pictures Of Black Men

Yesterday, an anonymous law student sent an email to the Indiana University at Indianapolis law school community complaining that there were too many black men represented in the school's public materials. This, according to the email first published by Above The Law, forms a "situation of concern to me which affects us all."

Why is that? "These banners are not a fair representation of the school. We should support diversity, not just African-American males." (You can see what s/he appears to be referring to on the school's website, which also includes images of another black man, a white woman and Asian women in one shot, and a hilariously staged-looking older white woman shaking the hand of a bowtied black man.)

Also, the emailer alleges that black students are also given disproportionate assistance by career services because of its leadership:

Is it perception, or reality that since the Office of Professional Development (OPD) has been run for the last few years by African American females that people of similar ethnicity are afforded greater assistance and the best opportunities to succeed? It is a pervasive opinion that the OPD offers more assistance to members of certain groups. Is this how our institution is to be regarded?

The email follows a boilerplate of the high-end variant of racism (see also Grace, Stephanie): The cloaking of pseudo-intellectual language (with exaggerated reliance on the passive voice); the vague awareness that Racism is a Thing but I'm not racist (including the co-opting of the language of diversity); the belief that one's all-too-mainstream view is so bold and brave (except for the whole anonymous email thing). There's the sentiment present in all forms of racism: The misplaced sense of grievance, itself a form of entitlement. Oh, and s/he signs it, "The Invisible Man." A sign of true oppression!

Black students make up about 5.8 percent of the school. Writes ATL's Elie Mystal,

I never thought that over-representing minorities in law school brochures was painful or offensive to the overwhelming majority that would therefore be underrepresented in the pictures. I guess I thought that one of the benefits of being in the majority is that you don't need a stupid PR photo shoot to make you feel like you might be able to get through school without being discriminated against.

While representation in brochures is only the most superficial kind of inclusion, it also represents not just the world that is but also the world that a community would like to see or welcome. (For example, there may not currently be as many women physicists as we'd like, but it's still important to represent the ones that are out there beating the odds and modeling for the next generation.) Clearly, the community that the anonymous emailer would like to see includes fewer successful black men in it.

Here's the full email:

Dear Students and Colleagues,

There is a situation of concern to me which affects us all. There are three giant banners depicting African-American males in the law school atrium. This is not welcoming to other minorities or whites. The images do not offer an accurate depiction of the school.

These banners are not a fair representation of the school. We should support diversity, not just African-American males.

The saying at the top of each sign says "Here we protect equality; Here we advocate for justice; Here we educate leaders; Here we create lifelong connections." Another photo could be added which says "Here we ignore all cultures except for a few."

I wonder what the recently filmed video shot in the atrium will say about our school?

The portraits and paintings in the law school sing the same song. It is a shame that the only place many groups see representation at the law school is with their reflection in the bathroom mirrors.

Is it perception, or reality that since the Office of Professional Development (OPD) has been run for the last few years by African American females that people of similar ethnicity are afforded greater assistance and the best opportunities to succeed? It is a pervasive opinion that the OPD offers more assistance to members of certain groups. Is this how our institution is to be regarded?

In Bloomington the OPD is highly regarded as a very helpful partner to all students, it would be nice if IU Indianapolis could somehow gain a similar reputation.

These concerns are shared by many, although few including this author are bold enough to raise a voice for fear of repercussion that may prevent someone from walking across the stage. Instead this anonymous email is submitted not to elicit a verbal response nor for lip service but rather by actions of the IU Law School in Indianapolis. As my peers and I proceed in our legal careers it would be great for IU Indianapolis to become better known and better recognized as a diverse and fair law school.

This appeal goes to all administrators, teachers, and students, please consider these words.

Thanks.

The Invisible Man

Giant Pictures Of African American Males Make One Law School Uncomfortable [ATL]