Diversity, Inclusion, Proximity, and Discomfort

Tips from CLBC

April 2021

As with many firms and organizations in the justice sector, CLBC has verbalized our commitment to diversity, respect, and equity inclusion. Our job postings do this, as did our recent call for volunteer Board members, which explicitly invited racialized, non-urban, Indigenous, and other individual members of historically underrepresented communities to join our governance. This said, ending systemic injustice is rarely as simple as writing the ending in our policies.

Bryan Stevenson, the well-known US attorney, author, and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, talks about four necessities for tackling hard issues: Proximity, Narrative, Hope, and Discomfort. The middle two need less explanation, but Proximity means this: to end a problem, you must first live inside and become intimate with it (it must be personal). Discomfort means embracing uncomfortable feelings as a normal part of the learning experience.

One way our staff has found to do this harder, more intimate work is to invite an anti-racism facilitator to kick off conversations with us. This led to an internal anti-racism book club, plus an area of our intranet for sharing diversity and inclusion resources of all kinds. Systemic racism, personal racism, white fragility, white supremacy’s dominance in oppressive systems — these are all terms that status quo institutions should get intimate with. Books like How to be an Antiracist, Me and White Supremacy, and White Fragility may not replace the need for equity-minded policies, but they bring true intimacy into the equation more so than obverse terms like equity, diversity, and inclusion. These titles may not be among our own library collection, but they are eye-opening books to start with for anyone in the legal sector.