There is no doubt that our biases, experiences, how we process information, all play a part in our personal narrative and journey.
I remember being young and naïve in my perception of the law. I was influenced by Atticus Finch but growing up in the 80’s, I also took in popular culture. Thoughts of L.A. Law, Night Court, name the TV lawyer and I probably looked to that as my idea of a lawyer. Most of these characters did not look like me … I mean, I guess Jimmy Smits … and wasn’t Claire Huxtable a member of the bar? Most of these depictions tied up their legal dilemma and search for justice at the end of the episode.
My father looked like the professionals I saw on television. Shirts… ties… suits. His morning dressing ritual found me enamored at watching him get ready for the day. He would pull out a crisp white shirt, bring out a necktie, a quick twist and turn it to a full Windsor knot. I sheepishly recall telling him how I wanted to grow up to be like him.
My father was a funeral director and embalmer… a mortician. His career came about due to his experiences graduating early from high school. Counselors back then did not provide much advice for Mexican Americans seeking further education. Dad took the route to an early graduation to get a job at a grocery store and help his family. In his free time, he hustled to do any odd jobs and found himself cutting the yard at the local funeral home. This set him on the course to eventually go to mortuary school and carve out a career.
It wasn’t until I got older that he shared the pitfalls of his experiences in his profession. The rampant discrimination. The comments such as, “You speak such good English for a Mexican”, or the idea of having to work twice as hard as his peers.
I took heed and internalized what I thought he wanted for me and the reminder that not everyone had the opportunities I had. I saw the sacrifices my parents took to provide for my education, the vehicle for my upward mobility.
Twenty years into the profession and my perception of the law hits differently. A recent Supreme Court decision squarely places years of precedent on blast and has me questioning the charged language.
A typical documentary touting the underdog, Pepsi, Where’s My Jet?, brought about my ire and highlighted the discrepancy of justice and access to justice. I guess it pays to have rich friends?
My perception of the law now is like The Matrix. It is hard to unsee the structures and constructs that exist. The concept of wealth disparity, the hurdles people face in an attempt to access justice lead to my present duty and obligation to help others to “see”.
Notes Between Us (NBU) is a blog about conversations and topics of interest to the writers. The writers are expressing their personal opinions solely. The essays represent their personal beliefs and not that of their workplaces or any organization they are associated with.