I got into Yale Law School. That’s the number one law school in the country. I had no connections there. I got there by busting my tail in college.
You’ve probably heard that re-play of Kavanaugh’s hearing in his attempt to become a Justice.
There are so many things that were a sloppy mess in this hearing, but for me, this was such an eye-opening statement. This is a man that comes from wealth, working and living with DC-elite, is a legacy student (aka White Affirmative Action) and yet he sat there and screeched he did this all on his own.
He ignores every leg-up, privilege, assistance given to him along the way. It is mind-boggling. Especially when people of color are expected, almost mandated, to acknowledge the smallest bit of help given to us–because God forbid we hold the same type of high regard for ourselves as our White counterparts.
Now don’t get me wrong, acknowledgment and gratitude are a good thing. Being self-aware is even better. Understanding that careers aren’t made because we’re brilliant (though it helps) but also because of the connections we have is of vital importance.
The Kavanaughs of the world want us to forget the access to opportunities they are given that most of us only dream about. Forget that he was hired to clerk for a feeder judge only because he played basketball with the right person or that Kennedy’s son, the Justice who he may replace, clerked for him. While none of that is illegal or bad per se, being obtuse about the help given to you is actually horrible. It creates lawyers with a false sense of ability and foments delusions of grandeur. It literally shapes a mindset in people who are born on third base and allows them to believe they scored a triple. They overestimate their skills, talents, and abilities. And as a society, we tend to buy into this idea that this person must be so naturally talented and intelligent just because they declare it.
In contrast, you may feel insufficient because you see the mentors, and all the people before you, and even the small bits of encouragement that allowed you to get to the next step. You see all that help and feel like you are in law school only because of luck and because of how nice people were to you. It’s easy to fall into that trap.
Don’t fall for it! Remember that no one joins this profession without help. And help is never a bad thing. Yes, at the moment, the help we obtain as POC may seem more prevalent and strategic, but we are playing against other groups that have had help, connections, hell–have made up the rules of this profession, for decades. Their help has been systemic so don’t believe for a second that all it takes is “busting tail.”
Finally, his statement reveals to us how there are students and faculty in law school who truly believe their intelligence and life status entitle them to certain things. Be aware of the prevalent sense of entitlement and be careful in how they treat you.