The Pale Veil: Decentering Whiteness as Power and Communication in the Legal Profession
Posted: 16 Jul 2018 Last revised: 4 Feb 2022
Date Written: October 1, 2020
Literature is replete with works discussing whiteness as a construct, but few works have explored the white man’s voice on his own terms. Focusing on the American legal profession which is 86% white, this work is grounded in qualitative research and provides a unique account of how white, male lawyers think and talk about diversity. I, along with two co-researchers, used a phenomenological approach to interview approximately fifty lawyers across the country. This project focuses only on those who were perceived or identified as white males—which, as of 2021, the legal profession comprises nearly 86% white and 63% male. Presented as constructed vignette autoethnography, this critical postmodern approach highlights behaviors that maintain the white males’ lives and experiences as the referent point of normalcy, making them blind to their own centering of whiteness. It further challenges white male essentialism and pushes for a reimagining of the relationship between whiteness and power. Ultimately, the goal is to shift the gaze for the white male beyond their veil toward the oft invisible Other, inviting him in as a listener to recognize historical privilege and power, and be equipped to partner as an agent of change toward equality and inclusion.
Keywords: co-cultural theory, conscious identity performance, professional responsibility, marginalized law students
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