Friday, July 13, 2012

A _____ _____, or a _____ who happens to be _____?

Paul Robinette was an interesting character on Law & Order. As would be expected from an Assistant DA, he held relatively conservative views about race and social justice issues, much the same as his white colleagues. The character left the DA’s office for unexplained reasons at the end of the show's third season, and when he reappeared in a guest role a few years later it was as a defense attorney representing a woman he viewed as a victim of institutionalized racism. (He made two more, somewhat inconsistent, appearances as a defense attorney on race-related episodes a decade later.)

A scene at the end of the 1996 episode in which he first appeared in his new role always stuck with me. In one of the first season (1990) episodes, Executive ADA Ben Stone asks him to consider whether he sees himself as a black lawyer or a lawyer who’s black. Six years later, as they leave the courthouse, Robinette reminds Stone of his question, informing him that at the time he thought of himself as a lawyer who’s black. Now – presumably after a few years doing a different kind of work and contemplating the meaning of justice in a racist society – he’s come to recognize himself as a black lawyer.

For the record, I’m a woman skeptic.

No comments:

Post a Comment