Striving to obtain racial equality requires not only a desire to change society but also a true understanding of the disparate treatment BIPOC people regularly face, and our role in effecting change. On February 25, 2021, the Professionalism Committee and the Diversity and Inclusion Committee of The Baltimore County Bar Association (BCBA) presented Part Two of its webinar Discussing Systemic Racism, Implicit Bias, and the Role of Bar Associations in Addressing Them. The webinar, hosted by Committee chairs Ari Kodeck and Alexander Steeves, featured Russell McClain, the Dean of Diversity and Inclusion at the University of Maryland Carey School of Law. Part Two was a facilitated discussion with members of the bar to evaluate our role as lawyers, advocates, and officers of the Courts.
The webinar began with a brief introduction by Dean McClain. The participants then broke into groups to have discussions regarding where there is room for improvement on the issues of racial equity and inclusion in the BCBA. The aim of the discussions was to provide all members of the BCBA a chance to voice their opinions on these issues. Dean McClain urged people to be brave, and approach the conversations from a place of humility and non-judgment.
During the discussions, people expressed their desire to make it easier for members of the BCBA to have discussions regarding diversity and inclusion. They spoke about experiences in their professional lives where they observed racial inequity, such as with judges, juries, the hiring process, and client relationships, and discussed why such disparate treatment continues to happen and what they can do to address it. The participants noted that seminars regarding race and implicit bias training were essential in helping people understand how their subconscious reasoning impacts their work as attorneys and judges. They also suggested that educational events regarding race and ethics should be mandatory to raise awareness of how race impacts the treatment of parties in cases and to enable people to take action to help prevent racially motivated decisions.
One panelist spoke about his experience as a black attorney, and the efforts in his firm to increase diversity. He noted there was disagreement about how a firm should go about becoming more diverse, and that BIPOC were often left out of the discussions and process. He explained that the focus should be less on increasing diversity and more on inclusion, and while there is still work to be done, he is glad the conversations are taking place. Other discussions included prosecutorial justice and sentencing of juveniles and impact bias. At the conclusion, the panelists were encouraged to continue to have conversations regarding race and to advocate for equality in their professional capacities.