This is my experience in my young career as a black attorney. I suddenly found myself in a place where I owed an ethical obligation to my client which heavily conflicted with my morality.
I walked into the conference room confidently and boldly with my client by my side as I signaled him to take a seat. I then signaled to the court reporter that we were ready to proceed with the deposition. My client was sworn in and the proceeding shortly began. It was a typical deposition with typical questions. I objected when I needed to and stayed silent when I needed to. As I began to feel the deposition about to come to an end, I began to feel relaxed and anxious to leave. Then it happened, I was sandbagged with racial slurs. Opposing counsel began on a series of questions which caught me off guard. He would repeat racist quotes then ask my client if he ever said those words to anyone. He was vague with the questions and the source of the quotes. Opposing counsel repeated the racial slurs several times. After each time, I felt myself shrinking into my seat. I was in a room full of white men who made it their mission to make sure I understood that I represented a person who hated people that looked like me. My client denied ever uttering the words and immediately stormed out. At the conclusion of the deposition, my client expressed to me that he was upset because he felt as though he was made out to be racist and that he wasn’t racist. I was fine with that and I could have accepted that. Then he said, “I dated a beautiful black woman before.” Anyone who has a meager sense of “wokeness” understands that this a horrible way to explain that you are not racist.
I do not tell this story to say that suddenly I realized that race in America was a real issue. No. Unfortunately I have dealt with much worse forms of blatant racism that was directed towards me. In fact, my earliest account of pure racism was in kindergarten at age 5. I tell this story to show what many of us young black professionals encounter in our daily work lives. I think that some of us, myself included, want to desperately believe that because we are educated with careers that we are beyond racism. But that isn’t how racism works because racism isn’t personal–its about the color of you skin and nothing else.