“By welcoming such a large class of Black students, Boston College Law School has demonstrated that Black education, issues, and lives matter. We are not token students, but rather our voices and experiences are welcomed and sought after by the Law School. This new class of future Black lawyers will enrich our community as a school and as a profession.” John-Henry Marley, BC Law Class of 2021
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) has dominated conversations in almost every institution in the United States over the past few years. Whether sparked by the cultural backlash to President Obama’s election, or the rise of Black Lives Matter movement, or perhaps simply an overall reckoning of the need to repair past discriminatory harm, many schools and workplaces have adopted DEI into their core values and strategic plans. Unfortunately, that’s usually where the conversation ends. DEI goals often stay just that: goals without action or results.
BC Law is different. Here, DEI is not merely a tagline to fit into a trendy movement, but rather a commitment to ensuring an “inclusive community, where people from all backgrounds are celebrated for their unique perspectives and lived experiences.”
Travis here: today I’m hosting a guest post from my friend and classmate, Tong Liu, Class of 2023.
The start of a new experience can always be nerve-wracking, with law school being no different. Diving into a new environment, meeting new people and navigating the complexities of pandemic life each brings a whole host of challenges. Some, like learning how to use Zoom properly, are easy and usually overcome within a few days. Others, like figuring out how best to prepare for classes, can take a matter of weeks. However, one of the most difficult challenges for me is determining how much of myself I can share with others.
Going into law school during a pandemic, I knew that in-person interactions would be limited. Half of my classes were going to be on Zoom, and the in-person classes had everyone masked up and socially distanced. I was also commuting about an hour and a half round-trip for classes, making it difficult for me to meet up with classmates who lived near campus.
Still, the commute ended up becoming a blessing of sorts as well. I was able to have a period of zen before and after classes as I drove, jamming out to an eclectic mix of songs. Safe within the confines of my car, I could take off my mask after a long day in class or at the library, and belt the songs out loud without any shame.
This past January, I remember thinking to myself that I couldn’t wait to submit my last final exam at the end of May. It was an exhilarating feeling that lasted for a day or so until I received the Writing Competition email with hundreds of pages of materials. I was eager to complete the assignment over the next two weeks, so that I could finally take a breather. I submitted my competition materials, but it was on the same day that my summer internship started. Oh yes, and then grades were released. Then, the window for OCI (on-campus interview) applications were opened. Did I mention the anxiety of class registration for next year in the middle of this?
If this all seems like a lot… it is! Yet, every first-year law student persisted through this process and thrived. Although the past year felt overwhelming for a variety of reasons, we were all able to persevere because Boston College Law School prepared us.
On my first day of my summer internship at the Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General, I was handed three assignments. One task was writing a memorandum that needed to be submitted five days later. Another task was assisting a supervising attorney by acting as a judge in a moot court as she prepared to argue before the Massachusetts Appeals Court. The other assignment was drafting a motion for an upcoming proceeding. All of this was in the first week.
On April 10, the BC Law Black Alumni Network (BAN) and the Black Law Students Association (BLSA) held their annual Ruth-Arlene Howe Heritage Banquet. As BLSA incoming co-presidents, KP and I addressed the attendees. Our speeches are reproduced below.
Thank you so much for the honor of serving as incoming co-president alongside KP, and our entire BLSA executive team, for this upcoming year. Personally, I am eager and excited to building stronger relationships with every BLSA member and supporter, as I’ve had the unfortunate circumstance of studying fully remotely this past year. But even more so, I look forward to continuing the legacy and momentum of past BLSA leadership.
I find it almost impossible not to acknowledge the recent attacks on the Asian American community. The same way I desire every conscious soul to affirm that Black lives matter- I must also affirm that the life of each Sister and Brother in every beautiful culture within the Asian American community matters.
Vulnerable conversations are powerful because it forces us to acknowledge our deficits and choose our mode of liability. That is, we can choose to ignore our own complicity in a system that breeds hatred and systemically condones discrimination, or we can actively work to dismantle this evil. I’m afraid that far too many people in our society, perhaps subconsciously, perhaps even myself, have fallen into the former.
Dr. King forcefully condemned this passivity in a Letter from Birmingham Jail when he blamed the stagnated progress of civil rights on White moderates, who were more devoted to a “negative peace in the absence of tension” than a “positive peace in the presence of justice.” Although his purpose, at the time, was to rally around the agitating methods of the Civil Rights Movement, Dr. King’s rhetoric echoes today as a condemnation of complicit silence.
Where are you, CNN?
Where are you, my fellow activists and leaders of social justice?
Deafening silence from the news media and our so-called allies
Feigned outrage only when it’s trendy
I am traumatized by your apathy
(Excerpt from Not Your Model Minority)
At its most basic level, a community is simply defined as a unified body of individuals. Anyone can be part of a community and, in fact, everyone is part of some community. But the power of community doesn’t arise from its mere existence: it’s created through shared values and consistent acts.
Recently, BC Law’s Black Alumni Network (BAN) provided amazing sweaters to students in the BAN mentor program. The creative sweaters happily surprised many students, but the impact didn’t come from the sweater’s creative afro-centric stitching. Rather, the impact arose from the thoughtful, intentional consideration of BAN members.
I’m not sure it’s possible to actually prepare for the first year of law school. After I submitted my applications in the Fall of 2019, I concocted all sorts of ideas to prepare and “get an edge”. I started by reading several books including The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein, Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, and some excerpts from Law School Confidential. I considered enrolling in prep courses to regain study skills. I’m pretty sure none of these tactics actually helped my GPA or experience (although both books are phenomenal reads).
As I wrote about in a previous blog post Act Like You Belong. Because You Do., the best strategy is to remain confident in your abilities that have propelled you this far. There is a lot of weight put on the competition in law school, which is not helpful. Plus, I’ve found within the BC community, my classmates want everyone to do well, not just themselves. My greatest mindset shift after surviving the first semester is that the only thing I can control is the amount of effort I put towards my studies. I like to think of my job as a law student described by three functions: academic success, professional exposure, and social network. After a semester under my belt, I intend to adjust course in three specific ways that correspond to each of those functions to boost my experience and performance at Boston College.
I proudly spend some of my time between Zoom classes, case briefs, and outlines, scrolling through Tik Tok while attempting to escape the pressures of 1L. I may browse Facebook and Instagram every now and then, too. I’m often left laughing at unbelievably clever people from around the world as they try to inject some joy into our current existence called 2020.
One of the recent video trends shows people preparing to “turn up” on New Year’s to mark the end of this infamous year. Most people would agree that 2020 has been unusually chaotic. We’ve experienced a global shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, heard Black Lives Matter chanted from every corner of the country, and we’re currently living through one of the most polarizing elections in modern history. Not to mention, our society lost some impactful people: Rest in Power John Lewis, Justice Ginsburg, Chadwick Boseman, Kobe, and Mr. Trebek, just to name a few.
It’s safe to say that we are living in transformational times.
I’ve always been surrounded by a host of resilient people who modeled confidence. My grandmother ensured that my identity was a core value of my life. She often shared memories of her grandmother, born into slavery, or her father, a sharecropper, or her own challenges climbing out of southern poverty to self-determination. That deep, rich personal history propels me forward every day. My mother is the hardest-working woman I know, who overcame immense obstacles growing from a struggling young mother to a businesswoman with multiple degrees.
I have no shortage of personal examples of perseverance. In spite of those examples, like many people, I struggle with a lingering self-doubt that questions my abilities. The feelings aren’t debilitating, nor do they outweigh my confidence. But, they are there.