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JD Human, Civil Rights, Skin Color

May 27, 2013


It had never occurred to me as a seven-year-old child that skin color could be destiny. I had been blissfully unaware of my origins until schoolyard taunting sent me home crying, questioning my parents about the difference between my sister's skin color and my own. I remember studying their expressions as they explained that they had adopted me. At the age of seven, I did not fully understand the term "adoption," but I realized that I was different. The full implication of this discovery only became clearer with time, especially now that I am actively pursuing a career in human and civil rights law.

Struggling with the Caucasian culture in which I was raised and the African-American culture with which I was expected to identify caused a feeling of tremendous dislocation throughout my youth. The dissimilarity between the two cultures manifested itself as I attempted to coexist in both worlds--some people considered me not black enough, while others considered me too black. Unfortunately, my adoptive parents failed to consider whether I would have role models or peers in school and church, and they neglected to promote a comfortable environment for me. Eventually, my parents became overwhelmed by the pressures of raising two children and sent me to boarding school while keeping their biological child at home. At age seventeen, after a series of escalating family conflicts, I found myself once again a ward of the court without choices or alternatives.

I shuffled through the "system," becoming a ward of the court, a group home resident, and a member of an independent living program. During each transition, I felt perplexed by the seeming illogic of the process; each placement seemed more socially isolating than the last. For a number of years, I tried to find an explanation for, and meaning in, my past. I gave birth to a child, moved to a new town, and enrolled in community college classes, yet none of these changes brought about the internal resolution that I sought. I went so far as to contact my biological parents, but I only found more questions. After all these rejections and transitions, I realized that my success would depend upon my ability to make independent decisions and trust my inner strength. With this change of perspective, I began realizing ambitions that had long lain dormant.

As a child, I had dreamt of becoming an attorney, but I had felt that such a career was beyond my grasp. As I matured, however, I realized that my unique background afforded me life experience that others did not have. My dreams of becoming a lawyer were consequently rekindled. I knew that success in law school would require practical experience with the law, and I therefore accepted a position with the Missouri Civil Rights Commission as a Civil Rights Investigator. My interracial adoptive background benefited me in this role and made me sensitive to the plights of people who had been deprived of basic rights. I gained considerable self-confidence. Within the first two years of my employment, I was promoted twice and was eventually elevated to the highest investigatory position, Civil Rights Investigator 3.

Drawing on the momentum of my quick career success, I enrolled in the Legal Assisting program at the University of St. Louis. I took classes in legal research and writing, computerized legal research, and administrative law, and I gained important insights that benefited me in my Commission job. While working forty hours per week, I attended school full time, taking between fifteen and twenty-one credit hours per quarter. The more I learned in classes, the better my investigative skills became. My hard work paid off when I received an invitation to join the Commission's Work Redesign Committee and Training Advisory Committee. I was also asked to chair the Process Redesign team, which would be instrumental in changing how the Commission processed discrimination complaints. I coauthored a proposal which, when ratified, would identify outstanding employees and use them as mentors to newly-hired staff, thereby reducing the Commission's external training costs.

The conscientious discharge of my duties led the Missouri Civil Service Employee Association to enlist me as a Steward in its XXXX County Chapter. My research, investigative, and speaking skills proved invaluable as I successfully argued every grievance filed on behalf of my colleagues. The union formally recognized my efforts at a chapter meeting and invited me to join their executive board. These experiences convinced me that I had the aptitude to become a powerful advocate.

Although I felt proud of my professional success, I still realized that I was not living up to my potential. I desired a position in which I could prepare for the rigors of law school and legal practice, which led to my employment as a Legal Assistant within the Office of General Counsel at the University of XXXX. To date, my work in this capacity has afforded me the opportunity to assist in the preparation of discovery documents, to prepare individuals for depositions, and to view an argument before the Sixth Circuit Appellate Court. I see this experience as the first taste of my future legal career, and I also recognize that my unique life experiences will give me a significant edge in certain areas of law. Having discovered my tenacity, perseverance, and inner strength, I look forward to arming myself with a J.D. and enhancing my skills, knowledge, and credibility as an advocate for all people, regardless of their skin color.

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