My Thoughts on My Place in This Space: Reflections on Representation – Debbie Yeboah

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If I’m being honest, I’m used to being the only black person in the room. I did my undergraduate degree in Victoria, British Columbia, and then I lived in Germany for two years; these are not places that are known for having a plethora of black people. So, when I first came to law school, I anticipated that it would just be more of what I was used to; a lot of white people, and not that many black people.

The thing is, it never really bothered me until law school. Well, it bothered me sometimes, but never for considerations outside of myself - What I mean is that being the only black person in the room was sometimes annoying and other times uncomfortable for me, but I did not realize that it was an issue for reasons much broader than that. Before I came to McGill, I had not really considered why diversity is important, and why a lack of it is a bad thing. Before law school, I had not really thought about the importance of representation.

Representation matters. It matters because it is difficult for black people to believe that they belong in a space when they do not see anyone who looks like them in that space. In the legal field, this is a huge problem. Yet, I recognize now that we, as black law students and future lawyers, are in a unique position to be a part of the solution. By simply being present, by taking up space, we get to show those coming after us that we do belong here. We get to show it to our colleges as well. Most importantly, we get to show it to ourselves.

Representation is not only important so that young black people can see people who look like them in the legal field, but it is also important for the influence that a racialized person can have in their workplace. We have an opportunity to be part of changing the culture of the legal profession from the inside, as well as changing the way the legal profession looks to those on the outside.

The future of the legal profession will be molded by the lawyers who work in it. We are those lawyers. We have a say in what the legal profession becomes, and through that, a say in what the law becomes. We have a voice in this. And luckily, black people are pretty loud.

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