• Megann Horstead

Washington D.C. lawyer A. Scott Bolden talks race, racism and the law


Many people in the African American community who understand how race, racism and the law intersect are overcome by fear, as they look to carry out their lives and find their desire for a dialogue on race is at a standstill.

The conversation, alone, raises a number of feelings for people to undergo.

What’s more is that news media and social media often stir infighting over discussion of race relations.

This became the topic of conversation for the Office of Multicultural Student Services of Lewis University, who turned to students, staff and community members Feb. 13 in an effort to show support for African Americans.

A. Scott Bolden, a Joliet native and Washington D.C. lawyer, spoke to those on hand for a presentation about race, racism and the law. The program’s mission centered on opening up a dialogue with integrity on race relations.

The process of engaging in conversations of this type are commonly difficult for those who do not identify as African Americans, despite the willingness of those who do.

Bolden was motivated to come out to the university to help them in celebrating Black History Month.

“My parents were Civil Rights activists,” he said. “My dad was in the NAACP. He was one of thousands of local heroes in the Civil Rights Movements that was unsung. He wasn’t on TV, he wasn’t famous, his last name wasn’t King or Malcolm X, but he was a foot soldier for each of you. I grew up watching him lead, here, in Joliet. I grew up watching him represent the criminal defense side, the Civil Rights side, those of the least, the lost, and the left out. I grew up watching he and my mother—partners in crime—desegregating public facilities and fighting for justice.”

Bolden said he has never struggled with the concept of race in his life, but he’s not always understood why America struggles with it.

In the past, African Americans have had their share of history in this nation whether it’s slavery, the Civil War, reconstruction, segregation and the Civil Rights Movement.

Bolden acknowledged that race relations have progressed over time, but he thinks the nation has never truly confronted the root of the issue.

“We have to create a safe space to begin the very difficult and painful discussions on the history of race and racism and its impact on all of us,” he said. “We have to be comfortable about it. If you’re a racist, you got a place at the table. If you’re a black member of Black Lives Matter, you got a place at the table. If you’re black, white, yellow or brown, you get a place at the table. We got it make it comfortable for all of us.”

Bolden’s presentation was made possible thanks to Lewis University’s Office of Multicultural Student Services, Department of Justice, Law and Public Safety Studies, Pi Sigma Alpha Honors Society, Department of Political Science and University Advancement.

The university prides itself on being committed to social justice.

“Catholic social teaching and Catholic intellectual tradition draw us to have a respect for all human beings and to demand that charity is not enough, but justice is required,” Lewis University president Dr. David Livingston said. “The law is one of those places where we constantly refine our understandings of justice. It’s a place where we do that.”

Livingston wanted to thank Bolden for coming out to speak and for coming back home.

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