Maryland Carey Law community speaks out in the wake of George Floyd’s death

Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion Russell McClain moderated community conversations after George Floyd’s death

Anger, grief, hurt, and helplessness are just some of the feelings members of the Maryland Carey Law community expressed during the web event, A Conversation on Race, Criminalization and Policing, organized in response to the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer. More than 130 faculty, staff, and students called in to share thoughts and reactions, and explore ways those in the legal profession and beyond can take action.

Russell McClain, Maryland Carey Law’s associate dean for diversity and inclusion, moderated the discussion. Panelists were Taunya Lovell Banks, Jacob A. France Professor of Equality Jurisprudence; Michael Pinard, Francis & Harriet Iglehart Professor of Law; and civil rights lawyer Kobie Flowers, a partner at Brown, Goldstein & Levy.

The speakers shared deeply emotional responses to the brutality and racism of the Floyd case while reminding attendees that it is just one in a countless line of similar incidents dating back to the time of slavery.

“These tragedies are a stark reminder of our history,” said Pinard, describing ways in which racism is woven into American society. “We are raw, angry, and scared.”

Flowers, renowned for prosecuting police brutality cases, echoed Pinard’s sentiments, saying, “Our culture needs to be fundamentally changed.”

In the course of the discussion, attendees used the chat feature to send in comments and questions for the panelists. A recurring theme was the question of how people of all races and backgrounds can work to make meaningful change.

Banks spoke about racial inequality that results from systemic racism that “infects American society.” Speaking specifically to white people who consider themselves allies, Banks offered the tough advice to “find a way to be brave” and use their privilege and knowledge to help others become allies. “Be prepared,” she warned, “for people not to like you.”

As the meeting wrapped up, Banks exhorted students to, “live fiercely while doing good,” while Pinard impressed on the community that conversations like this need to be regular occurrences.

McClain not only moderated the law school’s June 4 discussion, but he also facilitated a similar one along with the University of Maryland, Baltimore’s Elsie Stine, chair of the Diversity Advisory Council, for the entire university community the previous day.

Panelists for the web-based town hall, A Social Justice Crisis in America, included Associate Professor Chaz Arnett, who will join the Maryland Carey Law faculty July 1, and Clinical Associate Professor Wendy Shaia from the UM School of Social Work, who shared perspectives on the pain, rage, and sometimes hopelessness of being black in America.

Earlier in the week, Maryland Carey Law posted a Statement on the Killing of Black and Brown People. Signed by Dean Donald B. Tobin and more than 100 Maryland Carey Law faculty and staff, the statement calls brutality against black and brown adults and children by law enforcement officers and vigilantes a “largely unaddressed social epidemic” and a “stain on the fabric of our culture.”

“As we continue to see painful examples of how systemic racism, both overt and implicit, is holding us all back as a society, it is inspiring to be part of the Maryland Carey Law community,” said Tobin. “We are drawing strength from each other as we stand together against injustice.”

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