I write this as a parent and guardian of a 12 year old African American daughter who has brought incredible joy to our family since coming to live with us 7 years ago. I write this as a lawyer in a law firm of 7 lawyers, two of which are African American, one has been my law partner for 33 years and he and his wife mean so very much to my family; and the other I take pride in having served as one of his mentors, although his accomplishments are such that I would not dare take credit for his great success. I write this as a lawyer who has had two other African American law partners, one of which is a senior federal judge, and the other, now deceased, was one of the greatest trial lawyers I have had the pleasure of knowing. He loved the practice of law and by example taught me to love it as well.
I write this as a partner in a law firm that places emphasis on having a diverse staff which I believe is one of the cornerstones for our success the past 33 years. And equally important, I write this as a lawyer who has benefited greatly, both financially and as a person, from the many African American clients that I have represented over the years. I owe them all a great debt of gratitude for giving me and my firm the opportunity and the honor of helping them with whatever legal problems they were facing.
I, of course, feel the same about all of my clients who have entrusted their legal problems with our firm, but today, I am writing in particular about “Black Lives Matter”, a phrase that some have taken offense to because as we have heard over and over again “all lives matter.” Well, when I hear the phrase “Black Lives Matter” I immediately think “Black Lives Matter Too!”. African Americans do not believe that their lives matter more than the lives of other people, but what they do believe, and what they want the rest of us to understand is that their lives matter just as much.
Now I am not speaking for African Americans as if I know how it feels to be black in our society. I would never do that because it would be insulting the very people that I care so much about. However, I have been more fortunate than many others of my race to have a front row seat to what I see as the egregious injustices that have been inflicted upon people of color. Space will not allow me in this letter to describe the many such situations I have witnessed over the years, from outright physical violence, to racist name calling, to the more subtle forms of racism that permeate all aspects of day to day living for African Americans. Sometimes it is the more subtle forms of racism that do the greatest harm.
Bobby Kennedy in a speech given on the day after Dr. King was assassinated, and two months prior to his own assassination, had this to say about all of us learning to live together:
Our lives on this planet are too short, the work to be done is too great, to let this spirit [of violence and racism] flourish any longer in this land of ours. Of course we cannot banish it with a program, nor with a resolution. But we can perhaps remember, … , that those who live with us are our brothers [and sisters], that they share with us the same short moment of life, that they seek, as we do, nothing but the chance to live out their lives in purpose and happiness, winning what satisfaction and fulfillment they can. Surely this bond of common fate, this bond of common goals, can begin to teach us something. Surely we can learn, at the least, to look at those around us, as our fellow men [and women], and surely we can begin to work a little harder to bind up the wounds among us, and to become in our hearts brothers [,sisters] and countrymen once again.
Jesus tells us that one of the two greatest commandments is for each of us to love our neighbor as ourselves -- This is not a suggestion; it is a commandment. These words of Jesus leave no room to debate their meaning. If each person, regardless of race, color, creed, or national origin, would live by this edict of Jesus, and take to heart the words of Bobby Kennedy, we could all make tremendous progress in our reconciliation efforts both in this Country and around the world.