What's next?

We never thought this day would come. But here we are, with President-elect Trump. My thoughts on the road ahead.

LOOK TO THE CHILDREN. The rhetoric generated by the highest level of the federal government is frightening some of our children, and emboldening others to bully them. "Trump Talk" is making itself heard in our schools. We have to stop it.

No child can learn or function if she feels unsafe. The pervasive sense of danger is destructive to a child's ability to learn and develop normally, as well as to her mental health and well-being. 

We can all reassure children of their safety in our care. Look around in your civic and community organizations. How are the kids doing? And their parents? How can you structure reassurance and support for them? What's going on in the schools, and how can you support teachers in their work to stop bullying and comfort targeted students? Whether or not you have your own kids, everyone can do this.

CONTRIBUTE. Edmund Burke said that "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." NOW would be a good time to ACT. Identify NGOs that serve populations likely to be vulnerable during Trump's administration. Give money, give time, give bandwidth by retweeting and reposting their messages and articles. If you want suggestions for fantastic targets for your contributions, shout at me. I've got plenty.

Lawyers, doctors, techies, teachers, etc.: think about who will be most affected by potential Trump administration actions. What are they likely to face? Then think about your skill set. How does your skill set marry up with the problem? Okay. Now, how to you apply your assets to the problem? And which of your fellow professionals can join you in this work? 

BUTTRESS AND AMPLIFY. If, like me, you are a white person, I believe it's tremendously important for us to use our megaphones to support and amplify the voices of people of color, immigrants, religious minorities, and LGBTQ people. We obviously have a serious empathy gap problem. The voice of a person telling her own story is a powerful antidote to that gap. Amplify those stories and voices by retweeting, reposting, referencing, showcasing.  

DO. NOT. CLICK. We are all suffering from an acute overdose of 24/7 media. We've been in a state of hyper-arousal for months. But the election is over. The actions we can take now will be incremental, and reactive only in part. Take a deep breath. Give your nervous system a break.

TARGETED FOLKS: HAVE A SAFETY PLAN. If you are a member of a group that is a Trump target, there's some risk you may face real difficulties in the future. It's not a bad idea to develop a safety plan for you and your family. If you experience intimidation, harassment, or hate crime, what will you do? Whom will you call? How will you establish safety? The plan should include phone numbers for your local legal defense fund (if you have one in your region), the regional FBI, and the regional United States Attorney.

HEY, FELLOW WHITE PEOPLE! EVANGELIZE. AND INTERNALIZE. White people: we broke it; we own it. Now we have to fix it. Yes, yes, I know--you didn't vote for Trump. Neither did I. But the fact of the matter is that we belong to the demographic that got Trump elected. We're the ones who have to fix this.

But I can't talk to white people in the middle of the country! you say. Well, maybe, and maybe not. But start with your extended family circles. Are there Trump voters there? How about in your friend circles? That's a good place to start an extended conversation.

You may still think this isn't your job because you didn't vote for Trump. But ask yourself this: are people of color going to be able to talk to disaffected white people? How about immigrants or LGBTQ people? Yeah. I didn't think so. We broke it; we fix it.

While you're at it, take a good hard long look in the mirror and ponder whiteness. Yes, race is a cultural construct. It's not "real." But it has a hell of a lot of power. "Whiteness" is a symptom of white supremacy. All white people participate in it. Just acknowledging that fact starts to chip away at its power. Remember this: the opposite of "whiteness" isn't "blackness." The opposite of whiteness is equity and justice.

LOVE. Yes. You heard right. Love on your friends. Love them hard. We need love to remember that we are family. We belong to each other and we protect each other.

And, fellow white people, you know your friends who are people of color, immigrants, LGBTQ? Love them EXTRA hard. Send them love on their timelines and pages. Send them emojis and notes. They need to know that you have their backs, and you have their kids' backs. No matter what. Love them hard!

ONE LAST THOUGHT. If you don't belong to any civic or community organizations--a service organization, a church, a neighborhood group, a book club--find one and join it. If you're a straight white person like me and you don't have any friends who are people of color, LGBTQ, or immigrants--fix that too. We climb out of this by joining hands. Stronger Together. Always.

Saddle up.

 

 

Persyn Law & Policy turns 1

One year ago tonight, I launched my newest professional adventure, Persyn Law & Policy. My office was born of professional ambition and a wish to carve my own niche. It was also born of love and anger. In the course of this first year, PLP was buoyed by all these things.

The first two are easy to explain. Being a solo carries the immediate imprimatur of being founder and principal of your own firm. It's true that the solo is suddenly responsible for everything from firm software to liability insurance and business development. But there is a delicious freedom in choosing your own path--in deciding, for yourself, which issues to work on, whom to cold-call, how to shape arguments. Most of the time, I've collaborated with other lawyers in my work, and that's as I prefer. Nevertheless, the autonomy that came with my own marquee looms large.

The love and anger are more complicated, rooted as they are in the long history of our republic. I love America as it can be. That love is palpable, though the ideal is constantly aspirational. The anger boils up when we fall too far away from equal justice under law--when we take steps backward on a path that should travel always onward.

In my experience, Michael Brown's death in particular marked such a regression. For me, in Brown's case and so many others, the fine details of who did what and which actions were legally defensible were critically important, but not the foremost concern. What chilled me most was the dismissal of Brown's value as a person: the rhetoric used to describe who he actually was. The denial of dignity and respect to Black people in this nation has become particularly acute in recent years. And this is what Black Lives Matter and, more recently, the Movement for Black Lives are about. My anger comes from the refusal to acknowledge these realities. Over and over, I've read phrases like "All Lives Matter," "what about black-on-black crime?", "Blue Lives Matter," widespread use of the word "thug," and all the rest. Enough.

Here is a sample of the matters I've had the privilege to work on during this first year:

  • PLP was one of eight law firms that served as counsel to San Francisco's Blue Ribbon Panel on Transparency, Accountability, and Fairness in Law Enforcement. We spent a year investigating the SFPD. The report was published July 11. You can read the report here. I collected press coverage here.
  • On behalf of client American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children, PLP filed a brief in support of Petitioner Joseph H. on petition for certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court in Joseph H. v. California. Joseph, abused since birth, fatally shot his father when he was ten years old. California argued, successfully thus far, that Joseph validly waived his Miranda rights. PLP filed an amicus brief for APSAC on the impact of child trauma. More here.
  • PLP represents Tucson school district students challenging the Arizona statute eliminating ethnic studies. The statute was enforced solely against Mexican American Studies in the Tucson Unified School District. After a trip to the Ninth Circuit (after which the case was remanded for trial), PLP and co-counsel will take the case to trial in the District of Arizona in 2017. More here and here.

It's truly been my privilege to stand shoulder to shoulder with my clients in the name of equity and justice. The heart of a democratic republic is equal justice under law for all, whatever their station, origin, racial and ethnic identity, or anything else. This is the greatness of our nation. But it doesn't come free. We have to fight for it, for the love of our republic, for the love of those we hold closest, and for the love of those whom we find hard to love. That is the heart of Persyn Law & Policy.

Ground your practice in love.