around the bar
August 10, 2010

The Perception of a Post-Racial Society and Its Real Effects on Law and Policy

Are we living in a post-racial society? Does color still matter? How does race affect the law? These questions and others were tackled by a panel of legal, legislative and public policy experts during the Friday ABA Annual Meeting program,  “Debunking the Myth of a Post-Racial Society.”

The election of the nation’s first African American president is one reason many people believe that racial problems are a thing of the past. However, panelists argued that issues involving race and ethnicity are far from being resolved.  According to panelists, the myth of a colorless society has had a negative impact, making it more difficult to prove cases of discrimination and even influencing a number of laws and national policies.

Panelist John L. Burris, who was Rodney King’s lawyer, now serves as counsel to the family of Oscar Grant. Grant, an African American man, was killed last year by a white Bay Area Rapid Transportation police officer, who was found guilty of a lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter by a jury that did not include African Americans.  Burris noted the polarized reactions to the verdict: Those following the case either found the ruling too harsh or not harsh enough depending on their race.

Burris also examined race and ethnicity in terms of recent healthcare reform. “The primary beneficiaries would be African Americans, Hispanics and other minorities, while many opponents are white and upper class,” Burris noted. “If we are, in fact, in a post-racial society, then how can ethnic groups review the same facts but consistently draw opposing conclusions?”

In cases of discrimination, the belief in a post-racial society among jurors can be devastating. Panelist Maria Blanco, executive director for the Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute, said that it’s quite difficult to prove intent when most jurors “try to minimize the very real effects and meanings of discrimination – discounting the reality is a very real influencer.”

Panelist Angela Oh, executive director of the Western Justice Center, advocated more open conversations among Americans about race, as perceptions on race are a significant influencer on law. She noted that lawyers, as leaders, are in a unique position to stimulate these discussions, which can help mitigate social and legal injustices.

“Debunking the Myth of a Post Racial Society” was sponsored by the Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities.  The session was moderated by Leslie M. Proll of Washington, D.C.

Comments (5)

  • Race: Lets Talk
    10:01 AM August 11, 2010

    Perhaps we are moving to a post-racial society. Charlie Rangel and Maxine Waters may now face censure in the House. Perhaps the “black oppressed minority” defense will no longer hold up and minority office holders will be held accountable.
    Yes we should have a more open dialog on race. Let me know when the Left has decided to stop using the Race card, and then maybe we can talk. The most divisive comments on race come from the left or from blacks to other blacks who dare to stray from the unthinking devotion to the Democrat party ( sell-out, oreo, uncle tom). Yes, lets have a national dialog on race, but first lets realize that the essential element in most African-American studies programs is a true marxist plan for redistribution to cure the “unfairness” of accrued white privilege. Disagreement with this marxist concept is instantly branded as “racist” and then all reasoned discussion ends.

  • Louis Clothier
    3:11 PM August 11, 2010

    The title of the program reflects the leftist bias of those involved in the presentation, and that of the sponsor of the program.

  • Ruben Arizmendi
    9:36 PM August 12, 2010

    When you don’t “feel” that you’re a racist, it is very hard to know that you are.

  • Debo Syebo
    7:58 AM August 15, 2010

    Racism is part of legacy of the past, only a fool will say the lagacy of the past had no effect on present, slavery and slave trade invents the superioty and inferioty in human race.

    I dont think i need a medical expert to know all human had same chromosome in the system and brain is not an organ of skin color,, when some African leaders exchanged the children for a bottle of adulterated wine ,, then whites developed superiority and racism began..

    Many African American had invented many things to show to the whites that human genius is not and organ of skin color ( Garret Morgan) invented so many as an individual,, but yet racism continued.

  • TG
    2:01 PM September 10, 2010

    Racism is one of many ‘isms’ that the human race collectively uses on an individual basis. Those that have a conscience, which means (to me) those who realize that without one another we are ‘other’, or that ‘you are your brother’s keeper’, understand that we must ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’ as a basic premise of life in the human race on a daily basis. The universe is round and moves in a circular motion. What goes around….