“Wow! You're in law school?”
“You must be really smart, huh?”
“Are you a basketball player?”
These questions symbolize balancing limited societal expectations of Black men with barely accessible avenues for academic achievement. As a result, many Black men in law school and the legal profession are relegated to encourage an unlearning and re-education of their peers to validate their knowledge, work product, and even their potential for success. Our current law school representation epidemic of limited Black men champions a Canadian ideal outlook towards diverse representation that is not intentional towards including Black men. There are 14 law schools in Canada, and there are entering classes in 2018-2019 without any African-Canadian men. For these same institutions, this reality has been the case for several years, and it is not always due to a lack of interest or effort on the part of Black men, but instead, a lack of access.
As a 1L student at TRU Law, I benefit from a class filled with unique allies, but only one 3L brother that is akin to my struggle. Prior to law school, when speaking with Admission offices at several faculties about limited Black men in entering classes, they toss it up to limited interest or capped discretionary admits. Yet, I argue that the objective vagueness embedded in the term “diversity” has encouraged Canadian institutions to admit candidates from more refined cultural groups (this statement is not to offend my community but expose the ontology of many people on admission committees). Consequently, my experiences on campus have included having my enrollment questioned by security and staff when I am in areas restricted to law students in the building while combatting ideas from some peers positing token-based grounds for TRU admitting my application. I relied on the lessons gleaned through conversations with BLSA alumni at the 2016 National Conference to shine beyond the dusted expectations of my surroundings and blaze the trail for those who will rely on my footprints.
Months later, professors in my classes now admire my distinct ability to litigate and interpret the law. I have performed dynamically in a moot against upper years, relying on YouTube and Suits as resources. As well, I started a Labour and Employment Club to reignite my student body’s disappearing passion in this field of law, and encouraged the faculty’s administration to re-offer the class in future years. In spite of my non-traditional experiences of preaching, performing, and coaching, I have uniquely possessed innate skills to excel beyond expectations of a first-year student. I am inspired to impact my peers, my school’s admissions standards, and leadership from the top down to shatter at least one glass ceiling out of the 14 legal institutions in Canada.
I challenge you to do the same. Target those who did not succeed on the LSAT, or reach out to an undergraduate student with a B average that might hinder them from applying to law to begin with. Identify with their passion and ignite their effort by allowing them to be vulnerable with your own struggle. You will never know the impact of the fire you spark until you strike the match. Law school has given us the matches, it is time we strike nationwide flames.
- Charles Campbell
Thompson Rivers University