I was writing another PD-related post but had to stop and say something else.
I'm watching a special on Dr. King right now in light of the holiday. Dr. King is so incredibly captivating. His voice, his energy, his quiet power is just so incredible - and this is just from watching old video. I can only imagine what it would have been like to be in his presence.
Watching him motivate crowds of young African-American children, young African-American adults, watching these crowds fight for education and racial / economic equality, watching the police attack these crowds of black youth - these images leave me so conflicted. I can't help but think that my job is a symptom of what we've still failed to accomplish of Dr. King's cause. I know how frustrated urban youth are with the police. And yet where is their fight? I feel frustrated that there is no bigger movement to fight this fight. I feel overwhelmed by the burden of fighting this fight as one person, trying to fight it one case at a time. It's like trying to stick fingers and toes in the cracks of a dam. I want my clients to feel empowered to do something about how they are treated by the criminal system. I want my clients to feel empowered to do something about socio-economic stratification that is so glaringly apparent in urban areas. I'm fighting this fight as best I can, both in my job and in my personal life. But why am I fighting? Who am I fighting for? I feel like I'm fighting for a good number of people who want me to fight for them, but aren't interested in fighting for themselves. Occasionally when my clients or their families voice complaints about rampant police lies and misconduct, or racial disparity in criminal consequences, I encourage them to be pro-active, to engage their communities and their political representatives. I tell them that they know better than anyone else who is being victimized and how. I want them to feel like this is something they are capable of changing, to work on changing the dynamic instead of just reacting to it.
I can take a look around a courtroom filled with 100-200 people, and see maybe one white face. I want to take a look at those faces and see a movement like Dr. King did. I fear that the same room of people would be so much more likely to take today and go see the movie Notorious, and who would rather fight for the opportunity to live a lifestyle of a rap star, or of gang violence, or drug money. I fear that rap stars play too prevalent a role as leaders for the communities in which my clients live. It's demoralizing to me, and I want to know where Dr. King's fight went. I want to know what it would take to bring it back. Have we been so successful in creating racial and socio-economic apartheid in our country that we've taken the fight out of those who we oppress? We've been so successful in marginalizing the marginalized?
Tomorrow, our first African-American president will be sworn in. And I hope that in this historic event, where young people are flooding the inauguration just to be a part of President Obama, to just be part of his movement, to be in his presence and to be inspired by him, that this reinvigorates Dr. King's fight. President Obama can empower these communities in a national, cohesive way that no one else has in some time. I'm just a lawyer, I'm not inspiring anyone to action. I'm so excited to see a leader who is capable of empowering communities, to inspire them to action. There can be no better way to follow the celebration of Dr. King's life and legacy than by the inauguration of such an inspiring leader. For racial and socio-economic justice - finally, a leader.