The first time I was representing a client in a criminal proceeding, I asked my client to wear a dress shirt, as he had no suit and tie. The day of the trial, he and I arrived early, and took our seats at the Defense council table. The Crown Prosecutor, being a white guy, came over to our table, stuck out his hand for my client and said, “So, you must be the new Legal Aid Lawyer. Nice to meet you.” Meantime, I’m sitting there in a 3-piece suit, with the Criminal Code, and other legal texts, in front of me but, still, he assumed my white client was the lawyer, and I was the accused.
African woman said back, “what are you talking about?” The client then goes to bring out the paper/magazine from here, and says “see, this is you! You didn’t tell me” The African woman says back to her, “that is not me Mrs. Smith”, the client insists that it is her, and says “are you saying that I’m lying?” The African-Nova Scotian woman just said she just gave up…but when speaking with me, she said, “there are so many other African people in magazines, she didn’t think I was Oprah or Beyonce. Why a woman that could pass for a slave?”
Sometimes I hear co-workers criticize black people in supervisory positions in our field. Often in these discussions people will roll their eyes and say “equity hire” in reference to these people, i.e. implying that they only have their position because they’re black. I know lots of white people in supervisory positions, though, who perform just as badly in their job, yet when criticizing them no one says their position has anything to do with their race or ethnicity, as if white people don’t get any benefits for being white.