The senseless shooting deaths of eight people in Georgia, six of them Asian American women, were the latest attacks in a disturbing wave of violence targeting Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Stop AAPI Hate, an organization that launched last year to track violence and harassment against Asian American Pacific Islanders, received more than 2,808 reports in 2020. Sadly, the hate and discrimination aimed at the AAPI community is not new. Cultural and systemic racism against these groups has an ugly history in the US. But for too many of us, this longstanding problem only came into focus in the wake of the pandemic, with the rise in disgusting coronavirus-related slurs and shocking acts of aggression.
O’Melveny recognizes it has a special responsibility to fight bigotry in all its forms. And now, at a time when resurgent white supremacy poses an increasing threat in the US and around the world, we know it is more urgent than ever to stand in solidarity with AAPI colleagues, friends, and family and to urgently work together to eradicate intolerance and xenophobia. Our firm pledges to better understand and vigorously address the unique challenges our AAPI colleagues face and to seek the most effective means to assist AAPI people and communities.
The content that follows was first shared in response to the killings of George Floyd and other black men and women across the US during the summer of 2020—tragedies that made it impossible to ignore the deep and persistent inequities that undermine our society’s ideals. Just as our firm values dictated a reckoning with this difficult truth, they also compelled us to acknowledge the tremendous anguish felt by our black colleagues and all those who have been victimized by racism and oppression, and we pledged to help bring these injustices to an end. That fight continues.
To help translate our longstanding O’Melveny values into action on this urgent cause, the firm’s Racial Justice Committee is advising firm leadership on issues of racial justice and equity, promoting an open dialogue and soliciting a range of viewpoints about challenges inside and outside the firm.
Even if the midst of our country’s many challenges, there is reason for hope. People and organizations, both civic and business, responded to acts of racial violence with a new focus on reducing racial bias and inequality. Our own Bill Coleman, through a lifetime focused on promoting civil rights, exemplified the positive change that lawyers can cause. As people whose professional lives are committed to the legal profession, we can all be part of continuing that tradition and creating new ways forward. As a firm, we recommit ourselves to advancing our diversity, equity, and inclusion goals—in fulfilling our jobs, in our interactions with others, in everything that we do. We can do more. And we will.
We are focused on identifying concrete actions we can take for addressing systemic racial and social injustice. The RJC is working closely with many of the firm’s existing committees and groups, including our Diversity & Inclusion, Pro Bono, Corporate Social Responsibility, Alumni, and Management teams, to coordinate internal and external engagements and actions.
So much work lies ahead, and the RJC has already launched several initiatives, including collaborative pro bono engagements and volunteer opportunities with outside organizations, exploring fellowship opportunities for our people, and expanding our training programs. The RJC has been instrumental in:
- Coordinating three separate $25,000 donations by the firm to The Advancement Project, Color of Change, and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund;
- Securing the firm’s commitment as a founding member of the Law Firm Antiracism Alliance, a coalition of law firms committed to using the private legal community’s resources to promote racial equity;
- Partnering with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund to challenge the potential conflicts created by St. Louis prosecutors joining the police union and becoming members of the same bargaining unit; and
- Collaborating with other major law firms to help achieve the repeal of New York’s Section 50-a, which had allowed law enforcement agencies to shield police disciplinary records, a victory for transparency that Governor Cuomo signed into law on June 12.
And because racial justice is everyone’s responsibility, we have encouraged all of our attorneys and staff to discuss these vital issues and coordinate efforts in our local offices, a process that is already underway across our firm.
We look forward to sharing more about our ongoing efforts as we continue to do our part to promote racial justice, equity, and empowerment.
|Bradley J. Butwin
O'Melveny & Myers LLP
of Diversity & Inclusion
|Jared F. Bartie
of Diversity & Inclusion
of Pro Bono