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On race, racism and the law

In honor of Black History Month, Lewis University invites its students, staff and the community to sit in on a discussion, presented Feb. 13 by Washington D.C. lawyer A. Scott Bolden, of race, racism and the law.

Bolden is a managing partner for Reed Smith, LLP., a global law firm, as well as a Joliet native and a legal and political commentator for a number of political networks and segments, including CNN’s “Newsroom” and “Situation Room”, MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show” and Fox News Channel’s “Happening Now”.

The event, organized by the Office of Multicultural Student Services with the support of the Lewis University Department of Justice, Law and Public Safety Studies, Pi Sigma Alpha Honors Society, the Department of Political Science and University Advancement, aims to bring people together to move the dialogue forward on multicultural concerns.

“I hope to cast a wide net for those who are there,” said Kristi Kelly, director of multicultural student services for Lewis University. “It’s open to students, staff, and the community.”

When asked why he is focusing his presentation on race, racism and the law, Bolden said the topic is engrained in him.

“I was born into these subjects,” he said. “My mother and father were activists. They did a great deal of work. [My father] was the head of NAACP in Joliet, I grew up in an active family. As a man of color, I deal with race, racism, and the law. As a lawyer, I deal with race, racism, and the law often, and I have for the last 31 years.”

Bolden told the Times Weekly the intersection of race, racism and the law permeates the courts, here, as we know it in many ways.

“The racial disparity in the criminal justice system includes not just those who are in jail, but those in the courts,” he said. “It’s all around us. It permeates us especially as a person of color. A majority of the prosecutors are not persons of color. A majority of judges are not persons of color.”

Bolden wanted it to be clear that it doesn’t mean that race makes one better for the job and said what that means is my experience, as a person of color, brings a robust view to the court.

“Our biggest problem, despite the administration, is we’re lacking a dialogue on race,” Bolden said. “We’ve never had a discussion on reconciliation similar to something Africa had after Nelson Mandela died. Everyone negatively impacted by apartheid had their bad actors and receivers of bad actors confront their accusers, and accusers confront their accuses. Both sides can correct these dialogues. It’s meant to create a lot of understanding and to realize that human existence builds forgiveness, not necessarily forgetting, but forgiveness. Results of that dialogue can have tremendous effects on people.”

Bolden said it’s clear that issues of race have never been reconciled in this nation, despite the willingness of people of color to have those discussions.

“Those who do not are not willing to have that discussion, are afraid to have this discussion, are in denial of that discussion,” he said. “It is at that point the healing begins. … Dialogue should bring out that there is value to diversity. We have to get comfortable with that discussion. We don’t have enough leaders discussing this. The root of my presentation is why we can’t get it right, why does race and racism permeate our lives? White people are in denial, and people of color can’t get away from it.”

Under the new federal administration, the nation faces its share of hurdles.

“Given the racial challenges under this new administration, I chose this topic because it’s prime,” Bolden said. “A lot of us have to deal with it not only because of this administration, but also [what transpired in] Charlottesville.”

Since the installation of the new federal administration, a number of laws have been enacted. Bolden acknowledged that change is necessary and said it can be achieved with close attention to state, federal and local laws, policing and voting.

“American has been through a lot,” he said. “It’s an imperfect country. Our energy and our efforts are being misled. A majority of Americans do not support what this administration is passing. There are not enough moderates on both sides doing and saying what the people feel. You get three houses of government doing what Americans don’t believe.”

Bolden said the resulting impact of change, if implemented in the wrong way, can impact the lives of many.

The hope, Bolden, said is that change comes through the 2018 mid-term elections.

“If we don’t have better leaders, we’re lost,” he said “We lost our way, but we’ve not lost our principles.”

The goal, Kelly said, is to collectively and in solidarity move to encourage discussion of an important and timely topic.

“I think it’s relevant,” she said. “It’s a timely conversation. I don’t know if there’s a greater need for it more so [under the current federal administration.] It’s important not only for people of color, but those of multicultural backgrounds.”

The presentation is free and scheduled for 2 p.m. Feb. 13 in the St. Charles Borromeo Convocation Hall at Lewis University in Romeoville.

Lewis University prides itself on being a sanctified zone, according to its website. The institution aspires to be a campus where people are committed to working to end racism, bias and prejudice by valuing diversity in a safe and nurturing zone.

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