I grew up in a pretty traditional South Asian household. I’ve tried talking about the Black Lives Matter movement numerous times before, but my family just didn’t seem too invested in it. Most of the time, I would just give up. Because it was just too frustrating.
But that’s the problem, right? These are just events that we hear about or see in the news, just optional conversations that we can opt in or out of. But for black people in America, this is reality. It’s not just another life lost; it is yet another manifestation of the unhinged, systemic racism that we allallow to continue and continue to allow.
Black people in America don’t get to choose to live in constant fear. They don’t get to choose that law enforcement dehumanizes them. So it feels inherently wrong that my community gets to choose whether or not we care.
BC Law Dean Vincent Rougeau sent the letter below earlier this week to the BC Law community, and I thought it was important enough to share here on BC Law Impact. I have also written about this issue in my recent post Black Lives Matter.
Dear members of BC Law community:
I know the pain that you are feeling because I am feeling it too. And I am tired. So very, very tired. I am tired of writing these letters over and over again. As a Black man with three sons, I am tired of the fear I must carry when they are out moving through their lives in a country where the lives of people of color are so easily extinguished. I am tired of the sickening legacy of racism in this county and of being told not to talk about it because it makes people uncomfortable. Our nation is in crisis and we cannot continue to ignore the fact that the fabric of our society is being shredded by many among us who refuse to recognize our shared humanity.
This year Boston College gifted its students and faculty an extra day of reprieve on Columbus Day weekend, creating a new, four-day “fall break.” I took advantage of the extra time by heading down to visit my father in New York City, where we decided to spend a morning visiting Ellis Island and the immigration museum there. We set out with high hopes that were, unfortunately, chastened by missed opportunities.
Stepping off the boat at Ellis Island, you walk up to the main building that houses the exhibits and the only one that the standard ticket gets you into. The museum opens with a walk through the nation’s immigration history, beginning before Jamestown and stretching to the 1890s, when Ellis Island opened. The Trail of Tears, the Slave Trade, the mix of cultures that produced the likes of Jazz are all addressed. The history is deep and serves as a proper warm up to the story of the island itself, but, as my father pointed out, they might as well just hand you a book when you step off the boat. Displaying few artifacts, the exhibit doesn’t engage its visitors. You mostly step precariously around others, trying to stay out of their line of sight. I found myself gazing at the floor, which is a beautiful white tile, and wondering if it is original (it is).
A couple weeks into my 1L year, on my drive into school, I heard a report on public radio about a recent Supreme Judicial Court (the Massachusetts state supreme court) decision. The court had found that black men might have a reason, even if they were not guilty of a crime, to run from the police. Even as a greenhorn law student, I could tell that this sort of decision was radical. When I got to school, I printed the opinion, pushed Torts, Contracts, and CivPro to the side, and raced through it.
Citing to a study conducted by the Boston Police Department, which found that black men are more likely to be stopped and questioned by police officers, and repeatedly so, the court noted that a black male, “when approached by the police, might just as easily be motivated by the desire to avoid the recurring indignity of being racially profiled as by the desire to hide criminal activity.” This was the outcome I hoped to (but did not often) see in judicial decisions. I looked at the opinion’s author, Justice Geraldine Hines. The first black woman to serve on the Massachusetts Appeals Court and Supreme Judicial Court, she had worked in civil rights and defense before joining the bench. It seemed like the coolest career possible, and controverted the typical image of a judge as a stuffy old white man. Maybe if I was lucky, I thought, one day I would get to meet her.
On Tuesday night, I lay in bed refreshing the New York Times app and checking Twitter franticly. I voted for Hillary Clinton, and supported her from the first day of the primaries to the last day of the general; in fact I’d hoped that she would be running long before she announced it. When the push notification came into my phone naming Trump as president-elect, I cried.
The results of the election were gutting, for a number of reasons. After a campaign fueled by hatred and fear, Donald Trump’s presidency validated every anxiety I had felt during the general election—that there were more people willing to put the rights of others on the line to salvage their own privilege than there were people willing to work to correct the injustices in this country. We now know that Hillary won the popular vote, and while that is in and of itself reassuring, it does nothing to assuage my concerns about what a Trump presidency will mean for the safety of people of color, women, members of the LGBTQ community, disabled people, Muslims, or immigrants. Almost half the country voted for someone who admitted to sexually assaulting women, who called Mexicans rapists, who promised to ban Muslims, and who mocked a disabled person, and that is a stain on our history that will never come out.
2Ls (from left) Maria Colella, Ryan Murphy, Ashley Gambone, and Margaret Capp, pictured with BC mascot Baldwin, ran the Red Bandanna Run on October 24th.
As I introduced myself to classmates, professors and administrators during orientation and throughout the first few weeks of 1L year, many of them asked where I attended college, or why I chose BC Law. I told them that I went to Boston College, and had such a great experience that I thought it would have been crazy, if given the chance to come back to BC, to go to law school anywhere else. I couldn’t even picture it. Their response was, more times than not, “oh, so you’re a double eagle!”
I had heard the phrase “double eagle” tossed around in college from time to time. For those of you who haven’t, members of the BC community affectionately call people with two BC degrees (including diplomas from BC High) “double eagles.” Similarly, the more exclusive “triple eagle” title signifies three BC degrees.
Being from New York, and not knowing many BC alumni, the term “double eagle” never seemed like more than a catchphrase used in the community. But as I get closer to attaining my second degree, it has become much more than that for me.
The only light came from the eerie glow of the crescent moon as I stood in the middle of a wheat field. It was slightly windy, and there was a dilapidated farmhouse about 100 yards in front of me. Around the field and the house were dark, uninviting woods. For no reason, I noticed I was wearing a white t-shirt and black pants. As I walked towards the house, I suddenly realized there were figures approaching me on either side from out of the wooded areas. They were just black silhouettes lit against this breezy field, but I could tell they were wondering what I was doing there, and I, of course, would have no explanation. Continue reading →
I’m going to take a tiny detour from my Things I Wish I Knew series to address something that came up this week for me and that most of us are guilty of forgetting in one form or another: privilege.
Now this is where I expose my inner geek. One of my absolute favorite things to do in college was to have people over and play the game that has been ruining friendships since the 90s: Mario Kart. Remember when you were all set to win the race, and you’d drive through an item box and it would roulette through all the different items before it landed on the one you got – usually something useless like a banana peel, because unless one of your fellow racers beat you out in the last second, chances are you’d be crossing the finish line first.
What the frack am I going to write my personal statement about?
A thought that has probably haunted many a person reading this for the past few months. And even after you’re done writing it, you have to read it, which is a lot like hearing your own voice on camera – i.e., “Gross. Do I really sound like that?” Even worse, you have to get someone else to read it to catch the typos and confusing tangents. And most people fall into one of two categories: the ones who tell you it’s perfect and not to change a thing (thanks, Mom!) and the ones who basically tell you to rewrite the whole thing.
To say that I was nervous about submitting my personal statement to BC is kind of like saying Boston got a few snow showers this past month. Race is such a sensitive topic of discussion, and I felt like I was really throwing caution to the wind in dedicating my entire admissions essay to the subject, but I couldn’t help it – it didn’t make sense to me to write about anything else. Then when I got the request to publish it in BC Law Magazine, I was even more anxious. I typed the confirmation email quickly and hit “send” before I could change my mind.
Photo of the student organized BLACK LIVES MATTER – A Demonstration of Solidarity @ BC Law Event. Photo by Laura Partamian
Her voice was quivering, but she was still shouting. That’s what I remember most about the young woman in front of me. I could almost feel the sting of disrespect as she described her face being shoved against a brick wall by a police officer. I couldn’t help but relate to her — a graduate student in her 20s, pulling off the hipster look much better than I can. The difference between us was that she is black and I am not. That difference meant that she had spent her life in fear of law enforcement, treated like a criminal when she wasn’t one.