A Message from the NAPABA President on Opposing Hate
A message from National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) President, Pankit J. Dashi.
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As we see the continued rise of hate, including a 17.4% increase in hate crimes in my home state of California, it is important that we continue to speak out against hate and provide support to communities impacted by discrimination. NAPABA is committed to combatting hate crimes by educating and empowering our community to act against racially-motivated dialogue and conduct. I am encouraged by the response of our affiliates and national associates to our call to action and their efforts to empower their members and local communities—offering CLE seminars, organizing pro bono and legal aid clinics, and by speaking out. As individuals and members of multiple communities, we have been making a significant difference.
Unfortunately, taking such bold and courageous action does expose individuals and groups to backlash.
Recently, in Oregon, the legal community spoke out. A coalition of diverse bars, including our affiliates—the Oregon Asian Pacific American Bar Association (OAPABA) and the Oregon Filipino American Lawyers Association (OFALA)—issued a statement condemning white supremacy and calling on the legal community and elected officials to stop normalizing racism and violence. The Oregon State Bar issued a similar statement with the support of the diverse bars. Since its publication, our affiliate bars and these brave local leaders have been subject to continued harassment, threats of lawsuits, and threats of bar complaints being filed against them.
There are those who say rejecting racist comments, including from politicians, is being too political; that actions to address diversity divides the community; that the bar should not speak out.
We reject these claims. We believe everyone should be free from hate and violence. It is why NAPABA has condemned white supremacy. It is why we and our affiliates filed amicus briefs against the Muslim Ban. It is why Asian Pacific American attorneys are standing up to racist and anti-immigrant views in their communities.
We reject the idea that the bar should not be a leader in actively promoting diversity and inclusion. We denounce the harassment that our affiliate leaders and other diverse attorneys face because they dared to speak out.
All bar associations and lawyers have an obligation to promote diversity and inclusion and to protect their communities. We must take steps to address those structural impediments to progress. Our experiences and backgrounds make us better lawyers.
The actions of OAPABA, OFALA, and the other diverse bars are shining examples of true leadership. It is especially important in places like Oregon which have a history of legalized racism—for example, with a constitution and laws explicitly denying African Americans the right to live and own property in the state—and where the legal community is both small and not as diverse as many other places. Speaking out in these situations is even more necessary and takes more courage. These are the places where it is even more important to recognize and acknowledge the experiences of diverse attorneys—and take action to ensure their inclusion in the profession.
We can have differences over policy. But our core values are the same. They unite us a profession and as a bar association.
I continue to encourage you to find your platform to speak out. I invite you to continue to work with us and your local bar associations to develop programs to use your knowledge and skills to support those who need help. And I hope you will continue to remain brave and vigilant in the face of adversity and to rise collectively above the hate.
Pankit J. Doshi 2017-18 NAPABA President