A Message to Our Students

August 14, 2023

Welcome, we are excited for you to join us this semester! 

Like all of us here at the East Bay Community Law Center (EBCLC), we imagine you read the 2023 U.S. Supreme Court decisions with concern. In particular, the Court’s ruling in Students for Fair Admissions v. Presidents and Fellows of Harvard College has far-reaching impact. In real time, public and private institutions are quickly and recklessly changing their DEI policies and practices. Anti-discrimination laws are being weaponized against civil rights gains. People are losing public resources, healthy work environments, and their courage to do what is right. 

Because EBCLC is a racial justice organization, we will ensure that your clinical experience addresses this new legal landscape head on. 

During your first days of orientation at EBCLC, we will talk directly about race neutrality. We will ask you to interrogate the history of government and race, and the continuing legacy of race explicit laws. We invite you to spend your semester studying how "race neutral" systems repeatedly produce racially disparate outcomes- in criminal justice, housing, immigration, education, and income. 

Over the course of your semester, your supervisors will introduce you to our clients with an emphasis on your responsibility. It is incumbent on you to analyze all of the structures and actors that work against our client's interests, their livelihoods, their lives. Our clients are your partners in attacking racial inequity, and seizing victory for themselves and their communities.   

When we gather for seminar, our discipline is to remove "low income" "marginalized," "vulnerable" and "system impacted" from our lexicon. Our classroom debates are framed within a shared understanding that race has power. It always has, and always will, as Justice Sonia Sotomayor noted in her dissent: 

"At its core, today’s decision exacerbates segregation and diminishes the inclusivity of our Nation’s institutions in service of superficial neutrality that promotes indifference to inequality and ignores the reality of race.” 

We make this investment in your training because we need you, our students and our future students, to be race conscious. Colorblindness is a fiction, not a fact. As you pursue careers in business, government, technology, legal aid, and academia, we entrust you to hold your EBCLC values close. You will leverage hard-earned credibility, power and legal brilliance to take risks in service to racial justice. Our strategies must be bold, direct, subversive, accountable and collective. Your leadership at this time is necessary and hopeful. We are proud to prepare you for this fight ahead.

Zoë Polk,

Executive Director