August 27, 2020 Articles

The Pursuit of Racial Justice Can Pave the Way for Diversity and Inclusion in the Insurance and Legal Industries

An examination of the data reflecting a lack of diversity in the insurance industry and legal industry, explain how implicit bias or unconscious bias may be contributing to the lack of diversity in the insurance industry and legal industry, and provide some suggestions for promoting diversity and inclusion within the insurance industry and the legal industry.

By Terrance J. Evans

We are living in a critical moment in the struggle for racial justice, civil rights, diversity, and inclusion. The unlawful killings of George Floyd, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Walter Scott, Terence Crutcher, Sandra Bland, Botham Jean, Breonna Taylor, Philando Castile, Ahmaud Arbery, and Elijah McClain have galvanized people throughout the United States and across the globe in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

For many Black people, including myself, the fight for racial justice is personal. Notwithstanding my Ivy League pedigree or my success as a partner at one of the largest law firms in the United States, I have been subjected to racial profiling and overaggressive policing on several occasions. For example, I have had police officers pull their guns on me and point them at my head because the officers wrongly believed that the color of my skin made me dangerous. I have been stopped several times by police because I drive a nice car, and the officers incorrectly assumed that my car must have been stolen. I have also been unlawfully detained by police at a courthouse where I was scheduled to represent a client at a hearing because the police incorrectly assumed that I was impersonating an attorney and could not possibly be a “real attorney.”

While the personal indignities that I have experienced at the hands of law enforcement have been frustrating, I am thankful that I am still alive to talk about them. Many other Black people have been less fortunate. I am also aware that my parents and grandparents and my ancestors dating back to the days of Jim Crow and slavery endured more extreme racial profiling, discrimination, and indignities as a result of institutional racism based on the color of their skin.

To fully appreciate the need for diversity and inclusion in the insurance industry and the legal industry in 2020, it is important to understand the history of institutional racism in the United States, which brought us to this point. There is no mystery regarding why there is a lack of racial diversity in the insurance industry and the legal industry in 2020. The underrepresentation of people of color in these industries can be traced directly to institutional racism.

More than 50 years following the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Fair Housing Act of 1968, minimal progress has been made in diversifying the insurance industry or the legal industry in the United States. As discussed in more detail below, 96 percent of executive management at publicly traded insurance companies in the United States is White, 93 percent of executive management at mutual insurance companies in the United States is White, and 90 percent of partners at Am Law 100 law firms in the United States are White. This is out of sync with the demographics of the U.S. population, which is 60.4 percent White (not Hispanic or Latino), 18.3 percent Hispanic (of any race), 13.4 percent African American alone, 5.9 percent Asian, 1.3 percent Native American, and 2.7 percent of respondents identifying with two or more races. [1]

Our history explains how we got here. My mother, and all of my maternal aunts and uncles and grandparents, were born in houses because the hospitals where they lived were segregated and refused to treat Black people. When my mother was growing up, if she or another family member had a medical emergency, they could not go to the local segregated hospital. Instead, they had to call a doctor or a midwife—who was willing to treat Black people—to come to their home to provide medical assistance. Sometimes the delay in finding urgent medical care had deadly consequences.

Premium Content For:
  • Litigation Section
Join - Now