The 2nd Generation
I caught up with an attorney friend of mine a couple of weeks ago (it was Stout Month at Vine Street Pub, just a couple of blocks from my office, so I found myself catching up with a lot of folks). I asked my friend about his young daughter and he beamed as he told me what she’s up to, how impressive she’s growing up to be, and how she’s surprised even him in her self-confidence, maturity and ambition.
My friend is Korean, his daughter is Korean. In the midst of relating his genuine awe at his young daughter, he said he attributes much of it to her exposure to Asian women attorneys, naming off some of our mutual attorney-friends, and me included. I was completely floored. I know his daughter, have spent time with her at the Asian Bar Association banquets and barbecues, but didn’t think she’d necessarily even remember me.
He, like me, had no attorney role models growing up. He noticed that his daughter, having been around as many Asian women attorneys as men, created a different reality for her. It was a given for her that Asian women are attorneys, and she didn’t perceive us as unique because we are attorneys. This reality comes when access and opportunities are available to those historically underrepresented in a particular field or profession. As blogger Elie Mystal from Above The Law puts it: “The real beneficiaries of affirmative action are not the recent and current students to be compared against a ‘control set’ of white people who have been sending their kids to college for generations. The real beneficiaries of these policies will be their children. You think affirmative action benefited Barack Obama — wait until you see the achievement of Sasha and Malia.”
It’s one thing to speak abstractly about the importance of equal opportunity, diversity, and mentoring, it’s quite another to see it in action from one generation to the next. Touching on a theme I’ve written about before: it takes so little, and means so much. I can’t wait to see how my friend’s daughter will out-achieve my friend. And the rest of us.