The Agony… and the Agony…

This news item is a few weeks old, so I apologize to those who have read it already, rolled their eyes, and punched a wall. It aptly illustrates that we haven’t quite arrived at the station aboard the post partisan express, and maybe, just maybe, talking about race and gender is instructive. It is also proof one can still turn the verbal double play all in one conversation and be racist and sexist at the same time. Certainly takes a special talent. The short article appears here.

A county judge in Hagerstown was reprimanded for calling three black female lawyers “the Supremes” in court and advising the defendant to get “an experienced male attorney.”

Washington County Circuit Judge W. Kennedy Boone has acknowledged that his comments suggested racial and sexual bias. In his written response to a complaint, Boone said he was trying to protect the three public defenders from representing a difficult defendant.

Oh, I get it, he was trying to help them, ah the burden of the white man must be excruciating. What is a guy to do when he is surrounded by those he is certain are beneath him? There is no chance that these lawyers went to school to learn their profession and could be competent. Maybe he was gravely concerned that they went to one of those girl law schools where they teach you to dress cute and make a darn good cup of coffee for the men and might be overwhelmed by the challenge of …. being a lawyer. Was he worried they went to the singing law school, you know the one that black women all go to. After all, if an experienced male attorney was assigned to the case he might be able to fix up one of these women with an appropriate husband. Isn’t that why women of any color go to law school? To find husbands? Besides, these women were taking honest work away from experienced male attorneys and somebody has to stand up for their rights.

The Maryland Commission on Judicial Disabilities concluded the comments Boone made during a court hearing last April were “undignified and disparaging.” The notice of reprimand was published January 18 in the Maryland Register.

His comments weren’t racist and sexist, just undignified.Is this an example of denial, stupidity, or worse a tacit admission that the commission itself is hampered by deep and fundamental bias and hostility toward women, and women of color? What does a Judge have to do to get fired? What qualifies as sexism and racism by the standards of that commission?

A stipulation by Boone and the Commission said that in June the judge offered to recuse himself from other cases the three attorneys handled.

Maybe he was plagued by an obsession that he might do it again. Must not call black female attorneys, The Supremes. Wash. Repeat. Rinse. Rinse. The Commission might actually be forced to apply actually discipline to his behavior.

The Judge decided that an intensely radical, super human effort, was required to rectify his undignified remarks.

“I appreciate their acceptance of my apology,” he told the newspaper Tuesday. He also said he’d never before had a sanctionable complaint filed against him.

Nobody filed a complaint about him prior to this, I find it incredible that this particular Judge has developed sudden acute onset racism and sexism. He never got caught.

Inevitably when incidents like this receive publicity an air of dismissal floats about. We are told that occurrences in which public figures verbalize blatant sexism and racism, that we have been made aware of an “isolated incident.” There might be racist or sexist individuals who make embarrassing comments but it reflects no broad trends or structures.

A recent ABA ( American bar Association ) study explored the perceptions and experiences of women of color in private law firms and it mirrors that of the news story. 44 percent of women of color reported being passed over for desirable assignments compared to 39 percent of white women, 25 percent of men of color and 2 percent of white men. Women of color also reported being routinely excluded from networking opportunities. Almost half of them reported experiencing some kind of harassment  and demeaning commentary at work.

A sample of the comments directed at women of color include being called an angry black lady and a dragon lady.

There are no isolated incidents with regards to sexism and racism. They are all connected. They all reflect who we are and how far we still need to travel.


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  1. No pithy quips… I hope there isn’t a spike in rotten tomato sales.

  2. … on the books against both this kind of sexism and racism in the workplace.  Those laws were passed after rigorous study showing exactly how these kinds of actions harm the rights of others and destroy the notion of a level playing field.

    For the Commission not to note the nature of Boone’s comments is faulty on their part.  How are we going to change the kinds of conditions that allow this to happen if the disciplinary process itself doesn’t acknowledge the exact nature of the problem in its own statements?

    Boggles the mind.

    Great essay, undercovercalico.

    • pfiore8 on February 11, 2008 at 00:26

    for his remarks, i thought it wasn’t out of deference to the black community but to shut down the conversation.

    maybe this judge, opening this can of worms, does us all a favor. let’s not rest on the”it’s bad” but let’s pull it out. why does a person wearing judges robes say such things??????? he ought to be asked and asked and asked again. and i’d like to hear from the ladies as well.

    i find it interesting they accepted his apology and have appeared in his court since. what kind of conversation did they have? what’s missing in this story.

    i think it would be great if this tripped off an avalanche of meetups across the country among blacks, whites, hispanics, gays, arabs, et al to discuss discrimination, prejudice and all the bad isms.

    maybe (I can hope) that a President Obama would make it a priority to get us into this essential conversation regionally and nationally.


    great essay ucc.

  3. of where I chose to place my emphasis in writing this essay, consciously or not, but this is an example in which persons were attacked/stigmatized on both race and gender and other than Rusty quitting the male species which I gotta say, was way beyond my expectations, not much discussion about gender here…

  4. between the judge and the lawyers is/are the lawyers’ clients.  You know, the people charged with crimes who desperately need to be represented.  The people in this case who almost surely got screwed because of a racist/sexist judge and his unprofessional racist/sexist attack on the lawyers who were there to defend them.

    It’s always amazing to me that these kinds of confrontations between WM judge and BF lawyers end up years later being decided by a “reprimand” or a “censure” and/or recusal on these lawyers’ cases.  The judge never gets fired.  There’s never an inquiry into whether pervasive racism/sexism influenced the judge’s decisions, the sentences he imposed, how he dealt with minority and female defendants, how he dealt with important questions in jury selection.  We ignore all of that while the more powerful fight.  Put simply, the clients who needed these lawyers and other defendants in his court may have been methodically screwed by this racist/sexist judge, but, well, they just don’t count in the story.  And, folks, they should.  That is what it’s really all about.


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