By Stacy Lynne Douglas
As I sit to write my second installment of “DRI Voices,” I grapple with how I am feeling today compared to how I was feeling when I drafted the first article in 2020. The first installment wrote itself directly from the range of emotions I was experiencing at that time. The world was in the trenches of a global pandemic that disproportionately impacted brown communities. In addition, the ongoing social injustice regarding the treatment of Black Americans in the United States was brought to the forefront by the murder of George Floyd.
When I wrote the first article, I was angry, emotionally spent, and scared. Today my feelings remain unchanged. I am still angry as I watch Black lives continue to be lost at the hands those sworn to serve and protect. I remain emotionally spent and frustrated with the complete lack of conscience and regard for the beautiful Black souls who live in this country and have made significant contributions to the freedoms enjoyed by all. And, as a mother, daughter, sister, cousin and wife, I will always be scared. Scared that one day a loved one will leave home, never to return.
It is now summer of 2021. Fortunately, we are slowly coming out of the global pandemic known as COVID-19. People are getting vaccinated and escaping the stress and strain of living and working from home full time. We are starting to spend time with loved ones who we had not seen for a long time. We feel safer leaving home and enjoying restaurants, parks, and travel. Yet, while we revel in our newfound freedoms, it is imperative that we do not forget those who will never have the opportunity to enjoy restaurants, parks, travel, or social gatherings with loved ones because their lives were senselessly cut short.
George Floyd's murder was videotaped and repeatedly published via social media, news outlets, and online video streaming platforms. While we celebrate our lives, his young daughter will have that video as a constant reminder of her father's murder. When it comes to her, the focus is on her sweet voice when she said, "My daddy changed the world!" However, we must never forget the emotional trauma she has and will likely continue to endure for the rest of her life because of that video and the manner in which her father was killed.
Many people across the country celebrated when Derek Chauvin was convicted, feeling like justice had been served. When the verdict was read, I was in my car waiting in the carpool lane to pick up my daughter from school. My eyes welled with tears as I heard the charges and findings of the jury read aloud. In that moment, it felt like the first step had been taken in saying that yes, Black Lives Do Matter.
Sadly, there are many who continue to blame George Floyd for what happened to him and refer to his criminal past, which was irrelevant for the purpose of the stop he was involved in on that fateful day. Furthermore, Chauvin's conviction does not appear to have deterred certain law enforcement agents from continuing in their blatant disregard for the civil rights of Black lives, still believing they are "untouchable" with an indignance about their right to handle suspects in any way they choose. After all, Black skin is dangerous and to be feared. Black skin warrants more aggressive measures. Black skin is the enemy.
Personally, I am frustrated and dissatisfied. I want answers. I need a logical resolution that I can understand. I am utterly confused as to why the simple concept of, "equal rights for all" is difficult to instill in a country that touts itself as a democracy. As a lawyer, I want an outline and specific strategy to resolve the divide and ongoing injustice. And yet, I have nothing.
And then, just when I am feeling discouraged and hopeless, a conversation inspired me and I am motivated to keep doing the work. I recently had the opportunity and pleasure to speak with someone from #blacklivesmatter. The conversation started with me asking BLM if they would be willing to participate and dialogue on a panel of people from opposing sides. My thought process was that dialogue was important to create an understanding among the differing perspectives. In my naïve mind, I thought that was the best way to move the needle. However, during this conversation, I learned otherwise. BLM has a strict policy of not sitting down at the same table with law enforcement, as law enforcement and its practices is the very institution that it seeks to dismantle. I was perplexed and challenged this position, arguing that as an organization seeking the pursuit of social justice, we must, at a minimum, appear to be open to dialogue and, in fact, work with the organization that we take issue with.
In response to my challenge, I was reminded that BLM is radical in its approach as they are true abolitionists. What resonated with me the most was the comparison to my ancestors, who fought for the very rights I enjoy today. Slaves on plantations could not "sit at the table" with slave owners in the hopes of coming to a resolution. Freedom riders could not "sit at the table" with law enforcement in their pursuit of civil rights. Similarly, BLM refuses to sit at the table with law enforcement. This analogy was very powerful to me as we often forget that although slavery is no longer legal, it has a lasting impact that continues today.
Therefore, the reason this article is titled "Unapologetic" is because my conversation with BLM taught me that I must be unapologetic in my pursuit of social justice. I must continue challenging loved ones, friends, and colleagues when I witness acts of social injustice and I must be unapologetic in doing so. We cannot be timid. We cannot be afraid. We cannot tip toe around uncomfortable conversations. We must be direct, uncompromising, and unapologetic because we are on the right side of history.
Stacy L. Douglas is a partner and director of Diversity & Inclusion with Everett Dorey LLP in Irvine, California. Ms. Douglas has extensive experience working in a variety of areas, successfully defending transportation companies, major retailers and hotels brands, homeowner’s associations, individuals, automobile dealerships, and public entities in personal injury, product liability, employment, toxic tort, trucking/transportation, and real property disputes. Ms. Douglas was the recipient of the 2019 DRI Albert H. Parnell Outstanding Program Chair Award. She is currently vice chair of the DRI Diversity & Inclusion Committee and serves as the chair for the 2021 DRI Annual Meeting.