Goal IX Newsletter

Summer 2005, Volume 11, Number 3

On My Watch by: Lawrence R. Baca

My three years as Commission Chair have come to an end. This is my final Goal IX Message. I begin with the easy message of thank you. Thank you to A.P. Carlton, Dennis Archer and Robert J. Grey, Jr., former president, immediate past president and President of the American Bar Association, for appointing me Chair of the ABA Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession. It has been an honor to serve with each of you. Your leadership of the Association and the tone that each of the three of you set from the bully pulpit made it easier to press forward the mandate of Goal IX. I thank each of you also for your support of the Commission and its programs. Most particularly each of you took the time to address our students during the Minority Judicial Clerkship Program. Those visits from the President will be moments those students will never forget. I said to each of those groups, “If you want to understand how important the Commission’s work is to the ABA, think about this. The President will have a chance to visit maybe 2% of the programs going on at any given meeting and he came here to this program as a part of that 2%.

Lawrence R. Baca

I also thank the 48 Commissioners with whom I have had the opportunity to work as Chair. Without you, the lifeblood of the Commission, our work simply would not go forward. The role of a successful bar leader is to pick good people, give them a good job to do and then get out of their way and let them do it. I have been the luckiest of leaders in that three ABA presidents have given me people to whom I could give good jobs to do and get out of their way and let them to it. You are the wind in the sails of the ship that is the commission.

Lastly, the glue that holds the Commission together, our Staff Director Sandra Yamate and her first lieutenant Projects Manager Sharon Tindall are the only staff that have been with us the entire three years. Without them we would be lost ... not a ship without a rudder, just with out a compass or map. My greatest thanks to Sandra and Sharon who are 24/7 “for the commission.”

Ably serving with them currently are Program and Meetings Manager Regina Smith and Administrative Assistant Lynn Harada. Sandra has been the master of bring the best staff to the Commission - thanks to you, Regina and Lynn as well.

Doug Knapp. He left us. And so I should be unforgiving that he wanted a full time job so he could get married and have children. But he did such great work with our website, making it the best in the ABA, I cannot fail to mention his name. Thanks Doug.

There were many others who worked with us on the annual National Conference for the Minority Lawyer as planners and as speakers and the judges who give of their time every year to work with our kids in the clerkship program - kudos and thanks to them too.

Other People’s Words

I was looking for perfect last words to leave you with as I step down as Chair of the Commission. Not wanting to pretend that I could pen the perfect last words I went searching for the last words of others or famous farewell speeches to see if they might be useful. “My work here is done.” Short, to the point, misquoted. There are several things wrong with these last words of George Eastman. First, my work is not done, nor is that of the Commission. We made forward strides in the three years I’ve been chair, we’ve seen some firsts and we’ve shared some victories, but the work is hardly done. Minority lawyers are still just 9% of all lawyers while the national population is 35% persons of color.1 We’ve seen the first and second African American presidents of the ABA. Great strides forward, but where in the lists are there other minority candidates? We will witness the first Hispanic secretary of the association and the first Hispanic Chair of the House of Delegates being sworn in as this next bar year begins. Are they the next racial and ethnic minorities candidates who will rise to the top? If not one of them, then whom? These are wonderful firsts. But it’s 2005 and the firsts should all be behind us. Too many are yet to come.

During my tenure we saw and celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the Supreme Court Decision in Brown v. Board of Education2 the monumental case that brought about fundamental changes in American education – changes that created the opportunities that we now have to not be turned away from the schools of our choice because of our race and ethnicity. The fundamental principles of equality that are the underpinnings of that case have brought about opportunities that we now exercise to create a greater equality than Brown alone established. What we learned as we reviewed Brown , its history and it’s legacy was first, that lawyers of color, in seeking equality, had demonstrated our equality in the quality of their argument in those cases and in the development of the long range strategy that moved the law from Plessy v. Fergusen3 to Missouri ex rel Gaines v. Canada,4 to Sipuel v. Board of Regents,5 to McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents,6 and inexorably to Brown . Second, we learned that despite the passage of fifty years, the educational playing field is still not even.

The ABA’s brief in Grutter v. Bollinger,7 was submitted on our watch. We participated as one of the reviewing and commenting ABA entities. We celebrated victory with the Court’s recognition of the importance of diversity in our profession in that decision declaring it a “compelling state interest.” I have noted many time since that Grutter was just a fight, the war has just begun. The principles of Grutter will be challenged in state legislatures and under state constitutions and in the national houses of Congress. One group’s victory is another’s defeat. This is a war of competing ideals that confronts the future with all of the vehemence of the worst of the past. By 2050 the population of America will be 50% persons of color, those of us who are today racial and ethnic minority will be numerically equal not minority. But as long as our representation in the profession lags behind, our work is not done.8

“All things must end.”9 Biblical, sorrowful, wishful? In his poem Kyrielle, John Pane is bitter, marriages end, wine goes bad, days darken, death awaits - “all things end that have begun.” I think some things must end because they are wrong. Some things must be brought to an end because it’s the right thing to do. Inequality, inequity, disparate treatment; each and all of these must end. We must engage in a neverending effort to bring the end about, and then to maintain the equities once reached and to protect and preserve their existence. One thing that must not end is the struggle to make the ideals of this Nation that “All [men and women] are created equal” and that they remain equal, the reality of this nation. The progress toward full and equal participation in the legal profession must not end until the goal is met. May I merge Pane’s certainty with Descarte’s philosophy if I say that “the struggle must end because the goal must be met.”

“Parting is such sweet sorrow.”10 Shakespeare said everything. Sometimes he said it first, sometimes he was rewriting someone else, but he always said it best. We in fact paraphrased WS with our slogan, “First thing we do, let’s diversify the profession.” In this instance, Juliet laments leaving her Romeo yet expresses the notion of joy that they will yet meet again “on the morrow.” That too is my expression here. I’m stepping down as Chair, I’m not going into hiding or joining the underground.11 I will not leave the cause nor the work that we are pursuing. And, as we are of the same path, we will see each other again along the way.

“Beware the military industrial complex.” Wow, isn’t that one still true. Thank you President Eisenhower. But, of course, no one was listening.

Standing By And Saying Nothing.

These next words, again may not be perfect, but they fit our position as the Commission and as bar leaders. You’ve heard them from me before. From the Nazi era in Germany the following words are attributed to Reverend Martin Neimoller:>

“First they came for the Communists, but because I was not a Communist, I did not speak up. Then they came for the Trade Unionists; as I wasn’t a Trade Unionist, again I said nothing. Then they came for the Jews, but because I wasn’t a Jew I, once more, remained silent. Next they came for the Catholics, but because I was a Protestant, I again stood by and said nothing. And then they came for me. And there was no one left to speak.”12

Ask yourselves, who among us could say something similar. First they denied admission to the Negroes, but because I wasn’t a Negro I stood by and said nothing. Then I heard them insult an Hispanic because he spoke English with an accent, but because I wasn’t Hispanic “no dije nada.” When I hear the whispers that Asians are foreigners who ought to go home, I just let it slide because “it doesn’t hurt me.” When a man in my presence called an Indian “Chief” I didn’t tell him that was an offensive stereotype because I had something else on my mind, something that seemed more important at the time.

Not on my watch we didn’t. Let it never be said of this Commission that when “they came” for anyone we stood by and said nothing.

1. See, Miles to go Report, 2004.
2. 347 U.S. 483, (1954).
3. 163 U. S. 537 (1896).
4. 305 U.S. 337 (1938).
5. 332 U.S. 631 (1948)
6. 339 U.S. 673 (1950).
7. 539 U.S. 306 (2003).
8. And, of course, what Eastman, actually wrote was “my work here is done, why wait” and then, largely due to painful infirmities, he committed suicide.
9. Who knows the first reference. Perhaps the poem KYRIELLE by John Payne (1842-1916) is best known. One of eight stanzas (all ending with a common line) reads:
Ending waits on the brief beginning; Is the prize worth the stress of winning? E'en in the dawning day is done. All things must end that have begun. 10. Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare.
11. As Bruce Willis noted in one of his movies, “Does anyone know just how it is that you go underground. Is there a door or an application to fill out.” I’m as lost as his character as to how it’s done.
12. The writings of reverend Martin Neimoller. There are several versions of his statement. I like the rhythm of this version the best.

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