Volume 10, Issue 10
This article is a response to comments underneath last week's De Minimis article, MLS’ “Diversity Problem: It’s Just Not Going Away.
Jasmine Ali is right when discussing the issues that MLS has with diversity. She is right, and her lived experiences should not be doubted by people who read her article. What she has experienced, what all people, not just PoC have experienced, are valid life events, and should not be doubted, nor attacked. The comments on the article calling her life experiences “asinine” were disgusting.
But racism is merely one side of a stacked, diversity restricting, coin. Jasmine rightly identified that MLS students tend to be:
“students with historically high levels of socio-economic stability, and their flow on effects, adequate study time, financial support from families, a culture of veneration for the student’s chosen academic pursuit, and equally important, the relative freedom experienced from the fetters of day-to-day discrimination.”
Race is merely one part of the equation. Class forms another. To clarify, I’m not arguing that class informs race, nor that race informs class. Rather, there is a worrying and correlated trend between those of lower socio-economic classes, and racial minorities. It is reductive to the extreme to say that racism is caused by class. As a minority, I have been lucky enough to lead a privileged life, in a stable household, and where I was given freedom and space to grow academically.
Not all of those who are minorities are so lucky. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are one such group in our society who are, disgracefully, over represented in the lower socio-economic classes. Refugees form another. In fact, even those from ‘model minority’ groups, such as East Asians and Indians find themselves in the ‘lower classes’. For them, the stigma attached to being an Asian ‘not good at study’ may be worse.
It’s no surprise that a law school that prides itself on academic achievement, and on success in the LSAT, would attract those who come from backgrounds where resources are available to ensure that they succeed. I’m not accusing MLS of having racist admittance policies, but those who can take time off to study for the LSAT will, of course, do better than those who cannot. Is it a surprise then, that students who have functioning families, don’t have to worry about working, and who can afford to intern without pay are over represented in MLS?
And if that’s true, then of course the cohort will be overwhelmingly white; those who are able to afford to do so are likely to be overrepresented in that demographic group. It also explains why certain groups of East Asians are disproportionately represented in MLS as well.
But even those who are from minority groups that have generally been well off in this multicultural society have been discriminated against. As an Asian, I am cognisant of the existence of racism in our industry, and in business more generally. Of course racism exists in our society. To claim otherwise would be too reductive. Class is not the explanation for everything. For heaven’s sake, I prominently display my law textbooks every time I walk into the library, just to make sure people know I’m not a commerce student. I’ve felt the judgemental stares, and I wouldn’t wish them on anyone.
Until we address underlying structural issues in our society, however, any proposed solution to racial inequality is merely shuffling the deckchairs on the Titanic as it sinks under the weight of decades, if not centuries of racial minorities stuck in lower socio-economic classes.
Kai Liu is a second-year JD student
The rest of this week's issue: