Thursday, August 14, 2008

Embracing Wrongheadedness

When society's gatekeepers don't just embrace hyphenated Americanism, but jump in with both feet, it is in the interest of everyone who believes in the preservation of the Union to sit up and take interest. Case in point? This gem I received in today's mail from the Washington State Bar Association:

Dear Member:

The Washington State Bar Association would like to take this opportunity to let you know about the opportunities that exist for getting involved with the many Minority Bar Associations in Washington State. Below is a list of minority bar associations, along with a brief description of the organizations' purposes and goals. [Gee, thanks for that.]

We understand that you are busy with your own practice and commitments and would like to assist you in making contact with the minority bar associations. [Ignoring the fact that if was important to me, I was perfectly capable of going to the state bar website and looking the pertinent information all by my lonesome.] To that end, if you would like to make your contact information available to a minority bar association so they may contact you,please complete the enclosed form and return it to the WSBA, and we will provide the bar association(s) you choose with the information on your behalf. We of course also encourage you to contact the various bar associations directly if you prefer.[Of course you do. That's why you sent me this pleasant letter.]

The minority bar associations are an invaluable source of information and opportunity, and we encourage you to become involved. We look forward to hearing from you. [umm, Excuse me, but if they are invaluable sources of information and opportunity, then why aren't they simply the Bar Association as a whole, so we can ALL benefit from them?]

The letter proceeds with a list of each association, and a blurb about them. For the sake of brevity, I'll simply name each one, and only add their blurb if something really made my eyebrows shoot up.

*Asian Bar Association
*Cardozo Society
*GBLT Bar Association of Washington (QLaw)
*Korean American Bar Association
[Why the Asian Bar Association wasn't sufficient to meet their needs was not adequately explained.]
*Latina/o Bar Association
*Loren Miller Bar Association
-The Loren Miller Bar Association (LMBA) is an affiliate member of the National Bar Association whose purpose is the advancement of the social and economic well-being of its largely African-American membership. [OK. Now I am offended. Really. Unlike many of these others that have stated purposes of addressing the legal issues of their various target member groups, something that still rankles me, but I can understand, they seem to want to segregate social and economic well-being to their own membership? Why can't these benefits be available to all WSBA members?]*Middle Eastern Bar Association
*Mother Attorneys Mentoring Association of Seattle (MAMAS)
*Northwest Indian Bar Association
[Now this one actually makes the most sense to me. When they are considered sovereign nations and have their own court system, a separate bar association might not be a bad idea.]
*Pierce County Minority Bar Association
*South Asian Bar Association Of Washington
*Vietnamese American Bar Association of Washington
*Washington Association of Attorneys with Disabilities
*Washington Women Lawyers

You'll notice that there is no bar association for conservative white male lawyers, which I find surprising, because I'm fairly certain we are a minority in this state.
All snark aside, this gets under my skin for a number of reasons.

First, membership in the WSBA is mandatory. I do not get to opt out when they do things I do not agree with, and they have the duty to regulate the legal profession. I pay them annual dues. I submit to their authority. And when they advocate political positions I do not agree with, I can complain, and they will acknowledge my complaint.

Second, I find it hypocritical that I am expected to continue to present the concept of equality under the law to clients and the public at large when our state bar association sanctions the existence of so many subgroups dedicated to the special interests of various minority groups, which I find seem to have goals strangely similar to various political positions advocated by the State Bar in resolutions and articles published in state bar publication.

Third, it is UnAmerican. There. I said it. The genius of America is and always has been the concept of a melting pot. The dream of acceptance and assimilation into mainstream society has been slower to come for some people, and sadly, it required the shedding of blood on several occasions (the Civil War, and the Civil Rights movement in the 1960's come to mind). Many of the most vocal proponents often cite Dr. King's I have a dream speech. And well they should. It plainly stated the optimum aspiration of this nation..."Where a man is not judged by the color of his skin, but the content of his character." So why are many of these groups rooted in the color of skin or national origin? I will concede, grudgingly, that at one time, certain measures such as quotas or affirmative action might have been necessary as a remedial nature, to bring various citizens into roles and places that they and their kin had previously been excluded from. Unfortunately, like so many government mandated entitlements, these have become enshrined in society. The concept of diversity took hold, nurtured by academics and public figures, who could gain a measure of absolution for the failures of the past by stridently insisting that every walk of society must be diverse, and any subgroup or classification that did not meet a certain percentage of minority representation/participation/membership, then it was inherently racist and must have diversity forced upon it, even at the cost of merit. Merit was the engine that drove the excellence that this nation used to exhibit on so many levels. Now the benchmark is not excellence, but the demonstration of diversity. As a result, we are increasingly met with a divisive influence that we continue to foster. Minority groups increasingly betray the ideals and sacrifice that the civil rights pioneers of the 1960s made to become one of the club, so to speak, by now insisting on their own separate groups. When we become a body politic consisting of numerous subgroups laboring to advance their own agendas rather than uniting for the common benefit of all, then we have failed the legacy that so many brilliant and courageous people of all races and genders have labored long and hard to leave us. And the best result that we can agree on is mediocrity, because any aspiration of the whole must take such great care not to prick over-developed sensitivities, finely attuned to the most minimal perceived slight, as an opportunity to wield the club of 'moral outrage' to denounce and punish the alleged offender.

It is the embrace of this hyphenated-Americanism by a professional organization that contributes more to what is wrong with the nation today than what is right. And I fear that soon, I may have to decide if I can continue to support behavior so blatantly against the better interests of my nation and my profession. But for now, I think it is enough to stand up, and call attention to it. If the only responses are yawns, then maybe we really do deserve the state of affairs we currently find ourselves in.