“Law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
Waze calculates thirty-four miles from Pepperdine University to East Los Angeles College; the Pacific Coast Highway to East Cesar E. Chavez Avenue; the celebrity-populated western side of Los Angeles to Cheech Marin’s East L.A.; Malibu to Monterey Park. It sure seems longer, even in rush hour traffic. They are two different worlds.
I serve on the advisory council for the East Los Angeles College (“ELAC”) Pathway to Law School Transfer Program, a coalition of educators and practitioners brought together to destroy obstacles that stand in the way of a young person advancing from high school to community college, from community college to a four-year college, and from a four-year college to law school. It is an inspiring group, and I am honored to be a part.
It is also personally disconcerting. I’m not exactly sure how I, a first-generation college student from rural Arkansas, the son of a butcher who dropped out of high school to provide for his family during the Great Depression, am suddenly the picture of white privilege in a room full of impressive human beings, but as a lawyer who drove over from his condo in Malibu, even my expertise in denial simply tossed in the towel and admitted the truth. I may be the most reluctant privileged person around.
It was dark when the meeting ended, and on the stroll across the ELAC campus to drive back to idyllic Malibu, I noticed several classes in session. Maybe I was wanting it to be so, but it sure looked like all of the students in those classes were engaged in the instruction and not bored on Facebook. I’m just sure of it. I then wandered by the math tutoring center, and it was undeniably a hub of academic activity late on a weekday evening. All this made me feel particularly hopeful in this perplexing world of ours.
If I must come to terms with privilege, and I just might have to, I must use it to help those inspiring students hungry for knowledge in those hushed classrooms gleaming in the darkness.