Sunday, November 12, 2006

Visible Invisibility: Women of Color in Law Firms

That's the name of a new study just released by the American Bar Association regarding the experience of women of color in law firms with 25 or more lawyers.

What did the study find? One of the study co-chairs, Paulette Brown said: "I thought the numbers would not be good. I didn't know they'd be so startling."

More from a report on Law.Com by Susan Hansen of The Minority Law Journal:
Of women attorneys of color, 44 percent reported being passed over for desirable assignments, compared with 39 percent of white women, 25 percent of men of color and only 2 percent of white men. (The study covered law firms of 25 lawyers or more; more than 1,000 lawyers responded to the online questionnaire.)

Nearly two thirds of those women -- 62 percent -- said that they had been excluded from formal and informal networking opportunities, compared with 4 percent of white men.

Almost half of women of color -- 49 percent -- reported being subjected to demeaning comments or other types of harassment at their firms.

The examples of such harassment that respondents described in written comments and follow-up focus groups would make even the most vocal critic of political correctness cringe.

One Native American lawyer, for instance, recalled being asked where her tomahawk was and whether she would mind being called Pocahontas. A Korean associate recounted that her firm's managing partner introduced her to a Korean client with the words, "She eats kimchi just like you." Soon after, the managing partner left a message on her voicemail in which he tried to sound like an Asian speaker. Another Asian-American woman reported hearing herself described as "a dragon lady" at her firm, while an African-American associate said that she was labeled "an angry black woman."

To [study co-chair Arin] Reeves, the sheer number of minority women reporting those kinds of comments was a major surprise.

"We've sort of been in this mode where [law firms] think they've left this kind of harassment in the past," says Reeves. Unfortunately, she adds, the study shows that firms still have a lot of basic work to do to make women of color feel welcome -- such as making sure they're in compliance with anti-harassment laws.

Reeves may have been surprised but I'm not.

There is open hostility and rising fear out there regarding the rate of change in America .. change that has pushed women into the majority among undergraduates in college ... change that is moving America consistently in the direction of greater population diversity and a reversal of the definition of "majority" and "minority" in some states (California, Texas) and many urban areas (Washington, DC) ... change that is moving America toward greater tolerance, and, ultimately, acceptance of sexual minorities.

This fear and hostility often reveals itself in the treatment of those perceived as less powerful ... women of color, gays and lesbians, immigrants, geeks in schools controlled by jocks, etc.

These folks are like the canaries in the coal mine. Evidence of continued intolerance toward the less powerful (the least of us), especially where such intolerance is accepted or rationalized (whether by faith, homeland security or otherwise), is a powerful suggestion that all is not well in our democracy.

We who fail to see the signs, those who refuse to speak out against intolerance/injustice where ever it appears, may yet reap a bitter harvest, as those who have power act to keep it and we who remained silent end up like the women in The Hand Maid's Tale consigned to certain roles by the will and force of "the majority."

"The years forget our errors, and forgive our sins, but they punish our inaction with living death." Robert Grudin, Time and the Art of Living

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The Amendment Bit Allen Coming and Going

Looking at the CNN exit polls, it seems quite clear that the Marshall/Newman amendment hit Allen coming and going.

Early polling indicated that African American voters were not significantly more likely to vote yes on the marriage amendment than white voters. And this was born out by CNN's exit polls which showed white voters at 58-42 and black voters at 56-44.

On the other hand, CNN exit polls also indicate that black voters made up 16% of the electorate in this election. If that holds true, it means black voters made up a higher percentage of the electorate than in any other statewide election except Wilder's gubernatorial victory(17%).

Since black voters are more reliably Democratic in partisan contests (of which the amendment was not one), the push by va4marriage to turn out more pro-amendment voters, including those from African American constituencies, certainly did backfire on Allen.

The effort caused more black voters to turn out than otherwise would have been the case, and when they did turn out to vote yes on the amendment, they voted for Webb.

That this was an important aspect in Webb's victory seems clear where, as here, turnout in many high Democratic performance precincts was, on the whole, lower than in high Republican performance precincts.

Put this together with the fact that The Commonwealth Coalition's GOTV campaign was focused on turning out anti-amendment voters in swing districts (35 to 65% Dem performance) and anti-amendment voters were, on the whole, two to three times more likely to vote for Webb than Allen regardless of party.

Thus, it is fair to say that the ballot question turned out voters both for and against the amendment who were less likely to vote for Allen than for Webb.

Ironic, isn't it?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Just Asking ....

In George Allen's TV commercials he talks about his "more than 10 years" of public service to Virginia.

And, John Warner says Allen "has stood with me side-by-side for 22 years and no one ever challenged our record."

Is there some part of Allen's record that he isn't proud of?

Does Allen think we can't count?
8 years in the General Assembly
2 years in Congress
4 years as Governor
6 years as Senator

Maybe he's afraid that folks will think of him as a "career politician"? [After all, he's never had a "real job."]

Just asking ....

Monday, November 06, 2006

It's been almost a month since I posted here. Been busy over at Blogging the Amendment ... no time for flights of fancy or frivolity. Not even time for serious reflection.

But, tonight the well-documented reports of active voter suppression throughout Virginia has me wondering ... where is the blistering law and order commentary that I've come to expect from Commonwealth Conservative and the rest of the folks in the Old Dominion Blog Alliance?

Do you all not care about the rule of law? Is it okay in your eyes for cynical purveyors in the political consulting world to instigate, invent or implement the kinds of activities reported today (telephone calls telling someone they are registered in NY and it will be criminal for them to vote in VA; fliers telling folks to skip the election)? Where is the outrage and gnashing of teeth about election fraud that usually accompanies the justification for voter ID requirements? Where is the concern for the integrity of the process that one hears routinely when anyone suggests same day registration or even no-excuse absentee voting?

Would you all in the Old Dominion Blog Alliance rather win an election by dirty tricks and outright criminal behavior than lose honorably and honestly?

I sure hope not.

Time to speak up and speak out against this kind of behavior.

If you don't, we'll have to assume that you think that it's okay to do this kind of thing as long as you win.