As a holistic lawyer, I believe that we are called upon to serve as the gatekeepers of justice upholding the rule of law, principles of democracy, and foundational tenets of justice. I also believe that it is incumbent upon us to also be advocates for equal justice under the law and it is our duty to aid in empowering clients and promote their self-reliance.
As Martin Luther King, Jr. once said “We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. We are made to live together because of the interrelated structure of reality.”
Our differences and our diversity is part of the fabric that makes this nation great. It connects us all and is the energy that enlivens our colorful world. Therefore when we talk about equal justice its not merely a caption on the facade of the Supreme Court building, it is perhaps the most inspiring ideal of our society. It is one of the ends for which our entire legal system exists…it is fundamental that justice should be the same, in substance and availability, without regard to economic status, race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, national origin, or age.
How can we realize this shared vision of social justice? How can we overcome obstacles to racial, ethnic, and multicultural healing in this nation? How can we heal ourselves as a nation? How can we remove the hardness in our hearts from all the years of oppression? How do we forgive and find peace?
The civil rights dialogue is often a difficult conversation. We live in a nation with vast multicultural diversity, yet we also live in a nation that has been and often is divided. We have enslaved and segregated individuals for the color of their skin, we have made women property, we have stolen lands from Native people, we have denied the right to marry to our Gay and Lesbian citizens, we have brutally institutionalized Deaf and Blind people, and we denied the rights of Transgender individuals. Why is it that so many of us have been relegated to second-class status in our own country because of the color of our skin, our gender, our national origin, our physical difference, or our sexual orientation?
I often wonder what causes such polarization. Why is it that we as a nation have so much difficulty accepting one and other and we have stored so much anger against the other? What is the fear that causes us to distrust the other and seek solace in those that are the same as us? Some say that, as human beings we are just comfortable with those that are just like us. Some say the oppression that has been perpetrated against certain groups has caused a tremendous amount anger and guilt. But I think there is more to it than just that.
War and peace starts in the hearts of people. War begins when we harden our hearts. It begins when we have stopped listening to the other. It starts when we objectify the other. If the hardening is left unattended it can became hatred or prejudice. There is never peace unless somebody softens what is rigid in their hearts. This rigidity causes us to fear the other.
Injustice harms everyone. It is harming those that are victims of oppression as well as those who are oppressing and abusing. There is nothing that causes more pain and suffering than to be consumed by bigotry, cruelty, and anger.
I am the child of Deaf Latino parents. I am a lesbian person. I have felt the breath of oppression on my skin. I have learned to live in a marginalized society and I have learned fairness is when we are all treated fairly. How we move forward cannot be judged solely what has transpired in the past but rather how we can found common ground with each other and begin a new dialogue with each other.
COMPASSION, FORGIVENESS, APOLOGIES, AND HEALING
The new civil rights discourse we have with each other must start with compassion, forgiveness, apologies, and healing. Apology and forgiveness are sides of the same coin. Forgiveness is not forgetting but rather allowing our stories to be told so that we can see the pain, see the oppression, allow people to be heard, allow people to be responsible and accountable for their actions or inactions, and to allow the space to learn from this. This does not mean that we do not close our eyes to the oppression we or others feel. What it means is that we don’t allow our hearts to harden and keep strengthening our anger and self-righteousness with our thoughts and our words, and actions. Only when we examine our own self-righteousness can we empathize for the other.
The new civil rights dialogue through the lens of a Holistic Model is moving beyond feeling oppression, feeling of guilt, feeling bitterness, and the revisiting the years of oppression but instead entering into a dialogue and finding a place where all voices can be heard, a place where everyone is whole, and where everyone has the ability to be themselves and can create.
Healing, wholeness, and the power of creation must be part of the new civil rights discussion. I am not saying that oppression does not exist, what I am saying is that I as a victim of oppression need to begin to move beyond the label of victim that I have worn and begin the dialogue of how we have equality in this nation and equal access to justice. In this country, we need to learn to disagree with respect. We need to include accountability in our discourse. We need to look at things differently and answer the needs of people differently. One size does not fit all. We need to allow different viewpoints without judgment when we share and communicate. We have lost trust and common ground with one another. This trust needs to be earned. We have lost patience with each other, we need to be more patient. We need to look to what we have in common, rather than what divides us.
AVOIDING BITING THE HOOK
We need to learn not to take the bait. When we are triggered, by someone we feel has wronged us we take a defense posture and our aggression is unleashed. Whenever we feel someone has wronged or harmed us we fight, but “[e]very time you are tempted to react in the same way ask if you want to be a prisoner of the past or a pioneer of the future.” [ Deepak Chopra]
Let us all today feed the vision of the world we want to live in. A world where everyone feels included, a world where differences are celebrated, a world where we can find peace, a world where lawyers and judges can integrate their minds and hearts into the law to bring integrity, balance and peace to the profession. As Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world”.
Throughout history this nation has been divided. It is presently divided. For the sake of our children, we need to learn to no longer water the seeds of prejudice, bias, and aggression. Let us teach our children to open our minds and hearts. Let us gather together and share our gifts and talents. Let us start to do things differently so that we can truly create positive change in this great nation of ours by being the best we can be and in so doing contribute to peace on this planet.