“The Ethicist” Had A Long Answer To This Question. I Have A Short One…

, the New York Time’s advice column ethicist who really is an ethicist, was atsked with this query from “Name Withheld”:

I am a Black woman and I signed up as a mentor for a law-student-mentoring program at my alma mater. I made a request for a Black mentee, but I was paired with a white woman. Now I’m second-guessing participating in the program. Black attorneys make up less than 5 percent of all attorneys and continue to face horrific experiences in law school and in the legal community.

This is whom I envisioned myself supporting when I registered for the program as a recent graduate. I imagined deep conversations about law professors and law-firm culture, and sharing how I’ve learned to navigate them as a Black woman. Not only will these conversations not apply to my mentee the same way, but I can’t help wondering if assisting them will ultimately contribute to my own oppression.

There are so many factors in her favor that I don’t really want to help give her even more of a leg up in my free time. On the other hand, I don’t have anything against her, and law school is universally scary during the first year. Should I be thinking about this differently? Is it wrong to bow out?

“The Ethicist” gives one of his typical, restrained, detailed answers that I can’t fault, except that he writes, “You say that your prospective mentee ‘has so many factors in her favor,’ and, I trust, this inference is based on her dossier, not simply on her race.” Why? I don’t. It seems clear to me that the inquirer is incapable of looking past the student’s race, and immediately marked her as another privileges white kid. It’s disingenuous for her to say that she doesn’t “have anything against her.” Sure she does. “The Ethicist’s” inquirer is a bigot.

My answer to the questions “Should I be thinking about this differently? Is it wrong to bow out?” would be short and direct: “Yes, you shouldn’t be mentoring anyone, because you are bitter and biased. It is right to bow out. Leave the mentoring to someone who isn’t so warped by racial hostility that they can do a competent job.”

Next question!

4 thoughts on ““The Ethicist” Had A Long Answer To This Question. I Have A Short One…

  1. “Mentee? Mentee?” Are you kidding me? Doesn’t the Times employ copy editors and proofreaders anymore? “Mentee?” Wouldn’t the person she was assigned to “Mentor” be her “Telemachus?” Or an “advisee?” Ridiculous.

    As to the substantive question, maybe the mentor and advisee should both simply hire on at Hogan and Lovell. The black women lawyers there seem to run the place. And Name withheld thinks it’s only difficult for black women to navigate working at a law firm? Hah! is all I can say.

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