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Law Professor Shuts Down Student Bashing Her for Wearing 'Black Lives Matter' Shirt

Law Professor Shuts Down Student Bashing Her for Wearing 'Black Lives Matter' Shirt
(Chris Young - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)

Whittier Law School professor Patricia Leary was berated for wearing her "Black Lives Matter" T-shirt on campus to express her solidarity with the viral campaign. A seriously concerned, yet anonymous, student took issue with the professor's personal agenda and penned a note of indignation.

But Leary gladly responded to the letter and did what a professor does best. She schooled this angry student to death and did it brilliantly.

In the lengthy letter, the nameless scholar called Leary's actions as "inappropriate," "highly offensive" and "extremely inflammatory" and attempted to use their nascent knowledge of the law to make their arguments.

The student believed they enrolled in the school paying tens of thousands of dollars not to be "subjected to indoctrination or personal opinions of our professors."

REDACTED Law School has prided itself on the diverse demographics represented within the student body. Your actions however, clearly represent your View that some of those demographics matter more than others. That alienates and isolates all non-black groups.

"I do not subscribe to the 'consumer model' of legal education," Leary wrote back, in a more compelling, two-part response commentary. She explained at the beginning that she preferred to have a series of discussions together as a professor and student, but that it wasn't possible due to the anonymous nature of the letter.

Leary reminded her inquisitor that she valued the opinions because they were students, not consumers.

As a consequence, I believe in your entitlement to assert your needs and desires even more strongly than you do. You would be just as entitled to express yourself to us if the law school were entirely tuition free. This is because you are a student, not because you are a consumer. Besides, the natural and logical extension of your premise IS that students on a full scholarship are not entitled to assert their needs and desires to the same extent as other students (or maybe even at all).
So, as you can see, arguments premised on consumerism are not likely to influence me. On the contrary, such a premise causes me to believe that you have a diminished view of legal education and the source of our responsibility as legal educators. This allows me to take any criticism from such a perspective less seriously than I otherwise would.

The student maintained that all lives matter and suggested that isolating a specific race to uphold the value of one's life would be racist.

The 'Black Lives Matter' statement is racist and anti-law enforcement and has been known to incite violence in this country. As someone who is paid to teach the law, you should be ashamed of yourself.

Leary set the record straight about the campaign's meaning and social context.

There is a difference between focus and exclusion. If something matters, this does not imply that nothing else does. If l say "Law Students Matter" it does not imply that my colleagues, friends, and family do not.
Here is something else that matters: context. The Black Lives Matter movement arose in a context of evidence that they don't. When people are receiving messages from the culture in which they live that their lives are less important than other lives, it is a cruel distortion of reality to scold them for not being inclusive enough.

In response to Black Lives Matter being a racist statement against white people, Leary reminded the student that it wasn't about white people, nor does it exclude or accuse white people, and to assume the statement is solely based on violence against the police force would be ignorant. She added that the movement emerged as a reaction to violence.

Yes, the movement is about violence, in that it is about the subject of violence, but it is not about violent retaliation against the violence that it is about. It is a tragic fact that rage as a consequence of racial injustice sometimes gets enacted as violence (although not nearly as often as we might expect. Given the longstanding causes of that rage). We can all lament the fact that violence begets violence. But we can't even do that if we ignore the violence that has done, and is doing, the begetting.

And because Leary is technically a teacher, she gave some pointers on proper writing etiquette, including: "When you are writing to someone who has a formal title (e.g., Doctor, Professor, Dean, Judge, Senator) you should address him or her using that title" and "Your use of hyperbolic rhetoric throughout the memo suggests that you really are angry about more than just a T-shirt. Capitalizing words does not make them more powerful. It just makes you look angry."

Lastly, she suggested that yelling at the reader is not a good idea. "The power of your message should come from carefully chosen words that have been thoughtfully assembled, not from the size of your fonts."

Suddenly, Leary became the Internet's hero.

Hopefully, this isn't telling of a new breed of lawyers in our future.

Class dismissed.

H/T - Pajiba, InsideHigherEd, Twitter