by Rob Crain
As you likely know, part of this year’s agenda included committing ourselves to areas of self-education and outreach—educating ourselves as to implicit bias, and outreach to the community to facilitate safe discussions about race. The 26th Annual DBA Bench Bar Conference took place last month at Horseshoe Bay. Kimberly Papillon, a renowned speaker on implicit bias, performed a three-hour interactive workshop covering a swath of research and exercises demonstrating we all have implicit bias and detailing what to do about it. She went through the neuroscience of how, and why, our brains react the way they do when introduced to information. If you have attended similar workshops, you know the importance of being aware of our biases and taking steps to minimize them. These biases are vast and cover multiple platforms, not just racial or gender bias.
Following Ms. Papillon’s workshop, the Bench Bar attendees were led by Dallas County judges in breakout sessions to discuss implicit bias in our profession and courtrooms. I cannot tell you how proud I am of the substantive and meaningful discussions from each of these breakout sessions. When we sit down together, acknowledge our deficiencies, and discuss practical steps on how we can do better as a collective group, there is so much benefit for us individually, our relationships, our clients, our profession, and our community. These are not always easy discussions, but Ms. Papillon’s approach and the tone set by our judges set the stage for thoughtful dialogue.
None of us want to think we have biases, but we all do. I encourage you and your colleagues to attend one of our implicit bias programs at the Belo Mansion or to conduct an in-house program at your office. Please let me know if you are interested; I will help coordinate.
On our community outreach front, the DBA, as an Ambassador to the Year of Unity, will conduct our final Together We Dine event at Highland Park United Methodist Church on the evening of November 7. You can register for this event at www.dallasbar.org.
For those of you unfamiliar with the effort, it is a remarkably simple and eye-opening experience. You sit down over dinner with eight people from all parts of our community and partake in a listening exercise. Recently, on matters of race, we’ve all been witness to people exercising their right to speak; this program encourages its attendees to exercise their right to listen. Attendees answer random questions about race while those at the table listen. After all have answered a question, the table is then open for each person to discuss what they heard that impacted them. What happens in these discussions is always unique in its content but uniform in its impact. Discussions at each table differ on topics, perspectives, and opinions but most every conversation reveals similar origins of opinion, be it peace, love, advancing our community, wanting a better life for children, or some other noble motivation.
It is my appreciation that all who participate walk away from these exercises feeling closer to their community and neighbors than before they arrived. We will not always agree on issues, on race or otherwise, but if we will listen to where the other person is coming from, we will likely recognize their intentions and heart come from a similar place as our own. We will appreciate that what unites us is greater than what divides us. If you are unable to attend the event on November 7, please let me know about your interest; I will make sure you are informed about future events.
The DBA’s efforts with the Together We Dine program is a partnership with many, but primarily the Dallas faith community. I did not give the dynamic much thought when entering in the relationship, but the year has revealed a remarkable synergy when lawyers, and particularly our bar associations, join forces with a unified effort of the faith community. There is something about a profession being involved that connects with a resident who might otherwise shy away from an opportunity presented solely by the faith community. The same is true for the medical profession and others. Professionals are able to offer an element of comfortability different than what faith institutions provide. I am not qualified to answer why that may be the case, but I can say the partnership brings out a number of people in addition to those attracted by the faith community.
On Wednesday, November 29, we will have a luncheon at the Belo Mansion with five of the City’s most dynamic faith leaders: Pastor Richie Butler, St. Paul United Methodist Church; Pastor Bryan Carter, Concord Church; Rabbi David Stern, Temple Emanu-El; Imam Omar Suleiman, Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research; and Pastor Jeff Warren, Park Cities Baptist Church. Each of these leaders are not only changing the landscape on race relations in Dallas, they are reshaping how our local faith institutions interact with one another. They will discuss their efforts as well as what challenges lay ahead and how we can join forces to unleash the great potential of our city. You can RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am an unabashed fan of the City of Dallas—the people, diverse culture, quality of life, ambitious spirit, and many other qualities that are alive and vibrant in this city. There is also great potential. Our city’s history created many social and economic challenges common of large metropolitan areas. North Texas is growing at historical rates. Downtown Dallas, Uptown, and other areas are surging, but other areas remain slow to develop. New green spaces are bringing people together, but some neighborhoods remain isolated. Challenges with housing, public education, and poverty are intertwined and require a consolidated effort from all in our community.
The structure of our city governance is purposefully fractured, thus making change slow to occur without the broader community coming together and supporting change. And there are some issues that have nothing to do with governance that require people working with people. I believe the dynamic of the faith community and leading professions coming together can not only mobilize large portions of our community, but it can also bring the necessary synergy to overcome many of our most stubborn challenges.