Last month, Paulette Brown became the first black woman elected to lead the American Bar Association, the nation’s foremost legal group. The ABA has near 400,000 members and, coincidentally, didn’t allow Blacks to join. The Boston Globe profiled Brown and told her amazing rise from humble beginnings.
In a profession where only 7 percent of partners are people of color and the number of female associates has fallen for the past five years, Brown is focused, among other things, on raising awareness about implicit bias in law offices, the legal system, and American society. How is it that defendants of different races who commit the same crime get different sentences, she asked. Why are more black and Latino children suspended from school?
“Once you recognize that it’s a possibility that you could have some unconscious bias, then it hopefully will adjust your behavior. You will take a second to say, ‘Wait a minute, am I reacting this way because I could have some sort of bias in this situation?’ ” Brown said. “As a result, I think that you will be more fair in any kind of deliberation that you are engaged in.”
Brown grew up attending segregated schools in Baltimore, the fourth and youngest child of a truck driver and a stay-at-home mother, who later did clerical work. As with others who have had to overcome obstacles in order to succeed, she is tough — and persistent.
Once, when a judge kept telling her to be quiet, Brown slammed her checkbook down on the table and said, “You can fine me whatever you want, but I am talking today.” And the judge left her alone. Read more of the profile.
And watch this interview Brown did with NJTV News: