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Birmingham Bar Associations Bulletin Summer 2015

Steven F. Casey From the President President’s Message Like many of you, I am saddened and deeply concerned about recent national events which cause me to question the direction in which we, as a society, are moving. As I write this message, some 3,000 national guardsmen and police are on the streets of Baltimore, Maryland, to help maintain peace and order in the wake of great turmoil and unrest. Protests are continuing in Ferguson, Missouri, Chicago, Oakland, Dallas,Philadelphia, New York City and Boston, and there is angst and uncertainty in many quarters of our country. I look at our own community, steeped in a history of discriminatory practice and violence, and worry whether, or when, similar unrest might again visit our streets. To be sure, progress has been made in eliminating discriminatory practices in our country, and some may argue too little, too late. They may be right. But the fact remains that today, we see a growing distrust of many societal institutions, from law enforcement to schools to churches and courts, among others. Yet these institutions are fundamental, and necessary, to the Rule of Law and the foundation upon which our democracy was built. I am not so naïve as to think that I know any of the answers or the path we should take. But I do know that civil conversation and debate is prerequisite to most any progress, and the conversation around these recent events must continue. As educated people, leaders in our communities, and champions and defenders of individual’s rights, lawyers are uniquely situated to contribute to, and participate in, that conversation. Most would agree that all of us exhibit some form of bias or prejudice in our lives, whether it be as harmless as choices in food or music, or as harmful as many biases against class, race or gender. When we begin our lives, I believe we are naturally drawn to that which is familiar. As we grow older and experience life, our attitudes and biases develop in our hearts and minds. Some of these are taught, of course, and some we come by on our own. For me, harmful bias or prejudice is a moral issue, and one that cannot be completely “legislated away.” My personal view is that the challenges around this issue won’t really be solved until people’s hearts change, one at a time. I am reminded of the “Birmingham Pledge,” so artfully penned by our colleague Jim Rotch in 1997 and boldly displayed on the side of the Birmingham Police Department Central Headquarters on 1st Avenue North: “I believe that every person has worth as an ind ividual. I believe that every person is entitled to dignity and respect, regardless of race or co lor. I believe that every thought and every act of racial prejudice is harmful; if it is my thought or act, then it is harmful to me as well a s to others. Therefore, from this day forward I will strive daily to eliminate racial prejudice from my though ts and actions. I will discourage racial prejudice by others at every opportunity. I will treat all people with dignity and respect; and I will strive daily to honor this pledge, knowing that the world will be a better place because of my effort.” 8 Birmingham Bar Association


Birmingham Bar Associations Bulletin Summer 2015
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