White Doors, Black Footsteps: Leveraging 'White Privilege' to Benefit Law Students of Color

54 Pages Posted: 12 Dec 2016 Last revised: 14 Oct 2018

See all articles by Leslie Culver

Leslie Culver

University of California, Irvine School of Law; California Western School of Law

Date Written: February 1, 2017


Law students of color typically avoid seeking the mentorship of white law professors, largely white males, finding female faculty and faculty of color more approachable and willing to serve as mentors. Yet, according to recent ABA statistics, white people make up eighty-eight percent of the legal profession, with sixty-four percent being male. In addition, relevant scholarship comments that one of the primary privileges of whiteness is having greater access to power and resources than people of color do. It follows then, as recent legal scholarship suggests, that law students of color who fail to develop a cultural competence may be at a professional disadvantage if they are ill-prepared to work with diverse clients and colleagues. In other words, the success of law students of color, as well as their access to resources in the legal profession, strongly correlates with an acclimation toward positive interracial relationships. This Article draws upon interdisciplinary research, which suggests a white person's heightened White Privilege Awareness (WPA), paired with the belief that their influence can enact positive change, reduces racial inequality against people of color. Specifically, this Article maintains that WPA among white law professors, who mentor students of color and then leverage their white privilege to open professional doors for these students, will reduce implicit bias and may ultimately increase the retention of diverse attorneys. While the best methods to diversify the legal profession have appeared elusive, it is actually equal opportunity and empowerment of attorneys of color that eludes us. Diversity then feels like a *38 “buzzword,” not a tangible priority. Thus, this call to action for white professors is not rhetoric, but a unique opportunity for the white professor to diversify the legal profession.

Suggested Citation

Culver, Leslie, White Doors, Black Footsteps: Leveraging 'White Privilege' to Benefit Law Students of Color (February 1, 2017). 21 J. Gender, Race and Justice, 37 (2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2878185

Leslie Culver (Contact Author)

University of California, Irvine School of Law ( email )

401 E. Peltason Dr.
Ste. 1000
Irvine, CA 92697-1000
United States

California Western School of Law ( email )

225 Cedar Street
San Diego, CA 92101
United States

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