VTLA is committed to the fight for racial justice

Recent events are a stark reminder of the racial injustice that continues to plague our society and deny the Black community the equality promised to all. VTLA has a long history of fighting for equal access to justice. In fact, it is the core of our mission. Daily, our members serve as the voice of the powerless, the marginalized, and those victimized by oppressive forces. Affirming these values and virtues and declaring that we stand with the Black community in the fight for true equality is important but grossly inadequate to meet the call the present times require. VTLA and its members can and must do more.

As an organization, VTLA commits to have the difficult conversations and engage in the introspection necessary to confront our own failings regarding diversity within our membership and leadership. We must fulfill the ideal that true diversity is not simply a number, or a statistic, or additional faces of color around a meeting room, but rather the spirit of inclusivity where every individual is a valued part of the whole. We recognize our role and responsibility within Virginia’s legal community to challenge the status quo that limits access to, and success in, our profession. We support our own members, especially those in the Black community, in their efforts to battle institutionalized injustice in their practices and in the profession. We will use the power of the collective voice of our members to advocate for change in the laws, policies and practices that for too long have denied equal justice to everyone.

VTLA began this work on a much deeper level last year, to develop a strategic plan specifically for diversity and inclusion. That important work continues, and we need your input. We are reaching out to our friends in all branches of government to see where we can help effect change. We are looking for educational opportunities to provide our members with the information to represent those who have been arrested or had their civil rights violated during peaceful protests. None of this is perfect, but we are hopeful these steps will lead to broader discussions and ideas that will result in the meaningful change we all need.

As members, we must commit to action. Platitudes and expressions of support merely offer temporary comfort. We must accept that this is not “their” fight, but “our” fight, and commit our passion, expertise and abilities to representing those fighting for their liberties and equality. In our offices and in our communities, we must actively practice inclusivity, recognizing that diverse voices, ideas and experiences strengthen our endeavors and enrich our engagements. We must commit to change in our profession to remove the barriers that prevent access to our profession. We must accept the responsibility we have as lawyers to be the voice of the people, to protect those powerless to protect themselves, and to fight to ensure that the blessings and liberties promised to all are equally available to everyone.

None of this is easy. It requires commitment, courage, and compassion, and that is the very fabric of VTLA. It requires painful conversations about our past and present, and about who we are as a people and as individuals. It will be a process measured in years, not days. But we will begin to be the change now. 

(6/4/2020) 

TOUGH TALKS: A CONVERSATION ABOUT RACE AND THE LAW

A series of three virtual town hall-style meetings on race and the law in Virginia. Presented by the VTLA Diversity & Inclusion Alliance, chaired by Breanna West and Dominique Young.

Sessions were on July 8, 15, and 22. Missed the sessions or want to listen again?

Recording of Tough Talk - July 8

Recording of Tough Talk - July 22


VTLA ACTION STEPS

1. Supporting the work of our task force working with outside counsel on a deep, critical look inside VTLA's core for systemic barriers to inclusivity and diversity. This effort began in 2019 and continues now with more focus and energy.

2. Giving full support to our Diversity & Inclusion Alliance by listening, learning and acting.

3. Fiercely advocating at the state level for policies that will specifically benefit the Black community.

4. Educating our members with topics that will empower and speakers who bring diverse voices.
 

RESOURCES WE ARE FINDING HELPFUL

BAAG Allyship & Anti-Racism Resource Kit

PBS News Hour: What to read, listen to and watch to learn about institutional racism