Wednesday, May 2, 2007

It's Official...

I am officially almost done with law school, i.e. I have one more year left.

How do I feel? Depressed? And I'm not really sure why. It could be because I didn't get enough sleep last night. Or because I'm hungry. Or because you have these big build-ups to events and don't want to be busy but you are, and then after they're over you have nothing whatsoever to do and you kind of wonder what all the fuss was about. Or because I don't want to work and would rather attend school for the rest of my life. Or because I know I will soon have to start the torturous job search process all over again, only this time it will be for the job. Or because I create all these lofty goals for myself and have lived up to most, if not all, of them, but am not sure I will be able to live up to the lofty career goals I've set (top of the list being to practice civil rights law and make a difference in that area, and to become a published writer many times over--which, that has happened twice now, but I mean to publish my own works and not be published in other people's works--but also other goals that make no sense such as starting my own gym). Or because I'm having such a hard time securing the kind of place I want in Chicago this summer, and I'm just sick of that process. Or maybe even because I don't feel like I'll ever see another 'A' again for me in my life, and I used to get mad about 'A-'s in undergraduate school and now I'd love one of those. Or maybe because this was absolutely the worst year of my life (and I have almost always measured years of my life on the school-year scale).

Maybe it's just the fact that I feel like everything is so uncertain now in terms of the future. I talked to my friend the psychologist yesterday and told him how I essentially have planned everything out my entire life. And right now I can't plan anything. We talked a lot about what's wrong with law school and with people who become lawyers. It seems like there's always this disconnect between the two most important things--caring about people and being passionate about the material/the job. The people here who excel strike me as the ones who either have little social skills and/or the ones whose primary concern is not and will not be helping people. Maybe I should qualify that by saying, in my opinion, they will not be helping "the right people." Now, I have the "helping people" part down, but I am not at all excited about what I'm doing and can't really imagine being excited about work. I think there's a certain way I need to be able to do what I want to do, and I'm not sure the legal area is that way.

As my friend the psychologist correctly noted, there are too many privileged people in law school. That's not exactly what he said, but he did mention privilege and law schools. I add the "too many" part. I know people here who have tried and/or have been successful at learning about those who are not as privileged, those to whom they can't actually relate. And that's good, but most of those people will not be going out there after graduation to help those people. I know I don't know enough about various underprivileged groups right now, and I really wonder if I just have too many biases and prejudices to even want to help some people. So that's going to be a struggle. And I've often wondered how that works, because I know we all have biases and prejudices--how can you work in areas such as civil rights and not care about everybody the same? I'm going to have to figure this one out, and I feel like I have one year to do so.

I didn't make my daily blog rounds today, except I checked out Jasmyne Cannick's site. For some reason, even though I don't agree with the majority of what she writes her site is one of my two favorites, along with Rachel's Tavern. Today, she had something up that I kind of agreed with. And I say "kind of" because I feel that she gets too idealistic, even for me, sometimes or too narrow-visioned. But she wrote something to the effect that we, in the US, have all these problems that make no sense, given our nation's reputation and position in the world, and, yet, we are all off in other nations' business. It's so right. Very few things make me angrier than the way people in the US and how our government run to help other nations but ignore, and sometimes even deny, problems that we have here. I know that Iraq is most people's sore spot, but I've got to tell you--Africa is mine.

Now, let me just say--I know Africa has incredibly dire conditions. It's not like I don't feel sorry for those individuals or wish that they receive aid. I am not and will not compare the US to Africa--Africa is definitely worse-off. I also know that my ancestry partially lies with Africa.

Hmm. To be honest with you...1) I don't know shit about Africa...never been there, don't want to go there...ever. Okay? Sorry if that bothers some people. I just don't feel that connected to Africa. Even though I'm not treated like an American in my opinion, America is my nation, and that's the nation I want to help and want to be helped first and foremost. I am probably the most patriotic black non-Repughblican ever. I'm not saying I don't care about Africa, just that it's not realistic for me to put it on the same level as or a higher level than the US in my life when the US is all I know and I know nothing about Africa other than my mother's family goes back to Africans somewhere way down her bloodline. I have French blood connections that are "newer" than African ones, and I know more about French culture than African culture. And that might bother some people, too. And yet, I still say--help the US first.

2) When I think about Africa and the help people in the US run to give to Africa while ignoring problems here, I don't think about Africa's problems so much as the reasons why people might be so much more willing to help people in Africa than people in their own nation with those same issues. Now, we can argue about who those people in the US are who need the most help--you can claim it's class, race, a cross-section of all kinds of people, etc. I do think there's an identity intersection, usually class and race, and even with class most of those people are minorities/black.

To make a long story short, I can't help but wonder if this sudden renewed interest in what's happening with Africa isn't coinciding with a general desire among whites to shut black Americans up, as I mentioned with their support of Barack Obama. I think many people are interested in Africa because they really do care about Africa. But I also feel like there's this sub-layer where if you tried to speak to many of those same people about the problems blacks in America face and point out that these problems are ignored, they'd probably think--perhaps even say out loud--"What are you complaining about? Africans have it a lot worse than you do. Your concerns are trivial in comparison. You are lucky to have what you have and to live in America, and you need to be grateful for that." And if you know how white people are, you can expect some of them to even say, "You should be thanking our ancestors for bringing you here."

I don't disagree with some of those sentiments. The problem is you're comparing people in one nation with people in another. One nation is allegedly a superpower, a rich nation, a privileged nation, a developed nation. The other is none of those things. So my point is that, in a nation as "great" as ours, no one should be suffering in any way, least of all in similar ways as to people in underdeveloped nations--and make no mistake, black people here do suffer in similar ways as people in underdeveloped nations, just not as bad. Black people might not live in the exact same conditions as nor get treated as badly as black Africans, but, given the differences between our nations and the American Constitution, black Americans should not get treated badly at all. Neither should American-born Asians and Latinos, nor gays, nor the poor, nor women, or non-Christians, and so on.

Like Jasmyne said, people here--no matter what their background is--should not be dying because of something like bacteria from tooth decay going to their brains, all because a family could not afford to visit the dentist. To me, that's worse than what happens in Africa, because, with everything our nation allegedly has and the democratic bullsh--oops, I mean ideology--we spout, it seems relatively easy to rectify these damn problems that certain groups of people experience here. The money we raise for Africa, the kids we adopt in Africa, the money celebrities give to Africa--if we did all that for people here, a lot of our problems would be eliminated.

But it's not going to happen. It's different when you're giving to people whom you feel can't ever compete with you, who can't ever "take your spot," whom you never have to hear complain about what you have vs what they lack and for whose lot in life you don't feel any deep-seated responsibility for. It's different when you can do good and pat yourself on the back without acknowledging what's wrong with yourself, with where you live, with a place you love and have learned lies about all your lives...not to mention without acknowledging your role. And it's different when you can justify your lack of interest and wash your hands of any responsibility by blaming the disadvantaged people in your nation for their own problems. It's even possible that, like I saw on someone else's blog, we're just not seeing how our privilege as a nation means some other nation is underprivileged--it's easier to deny that we do have a role in what happens internationally and that we do compare to others globally.

One of the first things I thought about when I read Jasmyne's post is that relatively few people in this nation will hear about that story, the story of a 12-yr old black kid dying from tooth decay in America...precisely because it was a black kid. That is the reason problems in America are ignored--they tend to affect "the right people" more than they affect everyone else, i.e. the exact people Americans want gone. AIDS statistics demonstrate that black women and black babies are the most affected, and people have it in their heads that AIDS is a "gay disease" and a "punishment" for gays. Are you still wondering why we care about AIDS in Africa but not in America? It's no coincidence, people. That's what makes me angry about people helping Africa.

It's getting fired up about stuff like this that keeps me going, despite the depression, the worries, the prejudices living within me and the doubts. Somebody needs to say these things and point out the hypocrisy, and this is not being done. You see, now I don't even feel depressed anymore, although I'm still hungry. ;) Forget my 'A's, or lack thereof--there are more important things to worry about. My only regrets--and my biggest disappointment with law school--are 1) there are not more people around this school or any other law school who share this passion enough to choose to do anything about it, and 2) those people are the ones legal employers would rather hire, not people like me. If you ever wondered why there are so many lawyers in the US but why there is so much continuing injustice...I think I just answered your question.

So, it's official--the US and the legal profession are full of shit.