Jim Crow Lives at the State Bar of Texas
White males need not apply for the bar’s board of directors.
We now take racial equality for granted, but during the long-gone era of state-sanctioned segregation in Texas and throughout the South, one commonly encountered signs proclaiming “No Colored Allowed” and “Whites Only.” The days of Bull Connor, George Wallace, and Lester Maddox — and the repugnant racial caste system that they enforced — are, thankfully, far behind us. As a result of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education and passage a decade later of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, discrimination based on race was forbidden throughout the country. So-called Jim Crow laws were struck down. Yet, when the State Bar of Texas advertised for a position on its board of directors last October, it specified that white males need not apply. The opening, you see, is for a “minority director,” which is defined by statute to mean a lawyer who is “female, African-American, Hispanic-American, Native American, or Asian-American.” Jim Crow lives.
The bar is preparing to fill an upcoming vacancy, but the little-noted category of “minority directors” has existed for over 25 years. In 1991, the Texas Legislature — then controlled by Democrats — required the bar to seat four minority directors (preferably chosen from “different minority groups”), to be appointed by the bar president (who is elected each year by members of the bar). The minority directors serve a three-year term alongside 30 “regular” directors elected by members of the bar, six non-lawyer directors appointed by the Texas Supreme Court (to be selected, ironically, “without regard to [their] race, color, disability, sex, religion, age, or national origin”), and the president, president-elect, and immediate past president of, respectively, the state bar and its junior varsity counterpart, the Texas Young Lawyers Association (which serves as a sort of “farm team” for aspiring bar junkies). The full complement of the bar’s board of directors therefore consists of 46 positions — an unworkably large number more closely resembling a social club than a governing body. Of these, white men are eligible for only 42 of the slots; by law, the other four are reserved — quota-style — exclusively for women and non-white men.
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